Flying Salukis

Flying Salukis soar once again – The SIU Carbondale Flying Salukis capped off another stellar season with a second-place finish at the National Intercollegiate Flying Association championships this weekend. This marked the ninth straight year the squad placed in the top three in the nation, including three national titles during that span. (Photo by Russell Bailey)

May 20, 2019

Strong effort leads to Flying Salukis’ ninth-straight top 3 national finish

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. – Maintaining a winning legacy and edge can be difficult without a complete team effort.

Led by the 1-2 combination of Matthew Browning and co-captain Jonathan Ezell, the Southern Illinois University Carbondale Flying Salukis flew their way into second-place finish at the National Intercollegiate Flying Association championships on Saturday. 

This is the ninth straight year the Flying Salukis placed in the top three in the nation, with three national titles and two second-place showings during that span. The team has nine national titles dating back to 1977. 

Matthew BrowningBrowning earned top pilot honors with Ezell finishing second. The two then switched positions in overall scoring events with Ezell, a senior co-captain from LaGrange Park, Illinois, winning the title and Browning, of Fayette, Georgia, finishing second. Browning graduated May 11 with a degree in aviation management and flight. 

Andrew Finer WudtkeAndrew D. Finer, a co-captain and senior in aviation technologies and aviation flight from Des Peres, Missouri, finished 10th in scoring. He teamed with senior Warren Wudtke as the pilot to win the message drop event. 

Team won flight events championship 

In all, eight Flying Salukis scored in winning the flight events title and finishing third in ground events. Thirty teams competed May 13-18 in the event hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison at Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport, near Janesville, Wisconsin.

The University of North Dakota won the title. Embry Riddle Aeronautical University-Prescott was third.

Results are available at the NIFA website.

An ‘awesome accomplishment’ for an excellent team

Nathan J. Lincoln, a senior lecturer in the aviation management and flight degree program, said the squad’s cohesiveness and practice dedication helped continue the legacy.

“It shows how we are a top program in the country. We have high quality students, high quality instructors that can show at competition that we have some of the best pilots in the nation,” Lincoln said.

Team’s hard work, dedication rewarded

Jonathan EzellEzell, who has been on the team for four years, scored in seven events and won the power-off landing competition. He noted the “big improvements” each team member made within the last year and emphasized the team effort.

“Some of the best competition comes internally. We are always pushing each other and you always worry about teammates like Matt (Browning) because they are always barking up your tree,” he said.

Ezell will graduate in June 2020 and said he has signed on to work for Envoy Airlines once he graduates.

“We aren’t the biggest school. We don’t have the most money. But we work harder than anyone else and it definitely shows,” he said.

Browning also scored in seven events. While there were hints that he was scoring points by the number of times he heard his name Saturday night, Browning had “zero clue” that he was in the running for the top pilot award.

The experience of being on the flight team for three years has “meant everything,” noting the hours of practice and lasting friendships.

“All of my abilities in flying have been bolstered through the flight team,” he said.

Other Flying Salukis who scored points were:

  • Trent D. Medernach, May 2019 graduate, aviation technologies and aviation flight, from Batavia, Illinois; 33 points.
  • Angel R. Cochran, May 2019 graduate, aviation management and flight, from Bloomington, Illinois; 20 points.
  • Colin J. Heisler, senior, aviation management and flight, from Mount Prospect, Illinois; 16 points.
  • Warren Wudtke, senior, aviation management and flight, from Palos Park, Illinois; 7.5 points.
  • Nicholas G. Weber, senior, aviation management, from Fredericksburg, Virginia, 7 points.

Other Flying Salukis, with hometowns, year in school and majors are:


  • Chicago: Matthew M. Santos, sophomore, aviation flight.
  • Crystal Lake: Sean P. Sullivan, senior, aviation management.
  • Geneva: Maxwell J. Hamilton, sophomore, aviation management and flight.
  • Maroa: Lukas A. Miller, senior, aviation management and flight.
  • Park Ridge: Gavin R. Voris, sophomore, aviation management and flight.
  • South Barrington: Alex W. Evans, junior, aviation management and flight.
  • Springfield: Thomas J. Smith, senior, aviation management and flight.
  • Western Springs: Angelina R. Kapp, sophomore, aviation technologies and aviation flight. 

Lineup changes for the 2019-2020 season

The team will lose seven members for the Region VIII competition this fall, including six who scored this week. Finer and Heisler are co-captains for the next season. The Flying Salukis will host the Region VIII event in October at Southern Illinois Airport.

Lincoln has already met with returning members. Nevertheless, he is confident about the upcoming season as the team looks for a 50th national competition berth in 51 years.

“With the large graduating class we will definitely have some big shoes to fill and a lot of work to make sure that we do fill them over the next year,” he said.


Flying Salukis banquet