UND Aerobatic Team wins 10th national flying championship

Coach Michael Lents (center) hoists two of the now-10 championships the UND Aerobatic Team has earned since 2008. After a brief slip into second place in 2017, UND is back on top. Flanking Lents are team members Andrew Hollingsworth (left) and Team Captain Alex Hunt. Photo by Connor Murphy/UND Today.

The University of North Dakota Aerobatic Team has won the International Aerobatic Club Collegiate National Championship for the 10th time.

The John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences received the news after IAC officials tallied competition results from around the country during the 2018 aerobatic season.

Finalists included teams from Metropolitan State University – Denver, the Air Force Academy, and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

UND students captured two top Individual Collegiate Champion Awards. Jarrett Croy ranked first and Elizabeth Birch finished third for performance throughout the season. Alex Hunt and James Jacobson placed fourth and ninth among collegiate pilots flying in the Sportsman category or higher.

“These results truly show the depth, determination and discipline pilots educated at the University of North Dakota display day in and day out,” said Michael Lents, head team coach and professor of aviation, who has been with the team since 2008. “The unique training and experiences offered through the aerobatic flight course and our aerobatic team highlight UND’s commitment to excellence.”

The winning team consisted of students Jarrett Croy, Elizabeth Birch, Alex Hunt, James Jacobson, Torin Walhood, Mitch Oswald, Ashton Croy, Elise Wheelock and Andrew Hollingsworth. Head Coach Michael Lents was assisted by Mitch Oswald and Faculty Advisor Joe Vacek.

“UND is very proud of this unprecedented 10th national title,” said Paul Lindseth, dean of the Odegard School. “Congratulations to the entire student team and coaches, as well as the aviation department and UND Flight Operations for their strong support of the team.”

The UND Aerobatic Team began competing in IAC competitions in 2002, and won national championships in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2018.

UND Aerospace also fields the UND Flying Team and the Air Race Classic UND Team. The UND Flying Team competes in SAFECON flying competitions, where it has won 16 national championships.

Throughout the summer and early fall, the UND Aerobatic Team competes across the Midwest in IAC contests. Open to any aerobatic pilot, UND students routinely compete against professional airline, corporate, airshow and military pilots as well as engineers, computer scientists, business professionals and many others who train for competition. Sequences and maneuvers are flown to match specific grading criteria where scores are awarded for accuracy, energy management, consistency, and presentation. Judges apply deductions apply small degrees of error in heading and attitude for maneuvers such as spins, loops, rolls, and hammerheads. Top marks at these contests and throughout the season are hard won, said Lents.