John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences

News and information from the UND John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences.

UND Flying Team captures national championship

5/24/2010 — University of North Dakota Flying Team captures national championship 
This makes 16 UND victories in 25 years SAFECON competitions


The University of North Dakota Flying Team won the 2010 SAFECON national collegiate aviation competition, held at Indiana State University-Terre Haute recently. It was UND’s 16th SAFECON championship in the 25 years that UND has participated in this competition. UND’s is among the top long-term performance records in SAFECON’s 90 year history.

The team’s co-captains this year are UND students Kyle Schurb and Greg Weseman. Team coach and UND alum Jim Higgins, himself a former Flying Team captain, won this year’s Coach of the Year award.

“This win clearly demonstrates UND’s dominance in the field of academic aviation at every level,” said UND President Robert O. Kelley.  “We’re very proud of these students and their ability to demonstrate their aviation skills in SAFECON’s rigorous national competition.”

The UND Flying Team claimed the championship spot with 474 total points, 99 points ahead of the No. 2 team Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. It was one of the competition’s widest-ever winning margins and the second year in a row that UND won the competition with a record score. UND’s victory means being the best of the best—only the country’s top 30 or so college flying teams are invited to participate in SAFECON.

UND also scored No. 1 in the Flight Events Champions competition with 282 points, 40 points ahead of the U.S. Air Force Academy; and UND won the No. 1 spot in the Ground Events Champions event, with 192 points, 16 points ahead of No. 2 place Embry-Riddle.

UND’s winning streak is a major feat in a tough competitive environment that includes only the country’s very best college fliers. SAFECON—the continent’s largest collegiate flying competition—is organized by the National Intercollegiate Flying Association (NIFA).

“It was a brilliant performance, a real testatment to the education and training we offer our students at the UND John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences,” said Bruce Smith, the school’s dean and himself an aviator and former UND football player. “This competition, which is like an NCAA championship in collegiate sports, benchmarks the overall excellence of our college’s academic program and flight operations.”

“The UND Flying team showcases the very high level of flying skills that we endeavor to develop,” said Smith, who drove down to Terre Haute to participate in the SAFECON awards banquet last Saturday.

“For sure, our winning the national championship is an unequivocal testament to the character of UND’s overall aviation program,” said Jim Higgins, associate professor and UND Flying Team coach. “This was a complete team effort—by team I mean the entire organization firing on all cylinders. This was a very hard-working group with a strong sense of UND pride.”

The UND Flying Team competed in three of the school’s brand new Cessna 172 Skyhawks and two Cessna 150s, one of which was the Odegard School’s very first training aircraft. This Cessna 150 was re-acquired recently by Smith, who had it fully restored. Team members flew the five aircraft down to Terre Haute for the competition and back to Grand Forks, each leg taking about 8 hours.

“Our restored Cessna 150 performed exceptionally well,” Higgins said.  “For us, of course, it was really special to have that historic plane—orignally purchased for the school by UND Aerospace founder and first dean John D. Odegard—as part of this year’s competitive team and individual events at SAFECON.”

The SAFECON competition tests a broad variety of aviation skills, both on the ground and in the air, including short-field landings, power-off landings, and navigation, all demanding tests of piloting skills. Ground events include tests that measure a pilot’s knowledge of regulations, weather, and their ability to do aviation math without electronic aids.

“UND—since it began competing in SAFECON 25 years ago—has always placed in the Top 10, most often in the top two spots,” said Higgins.

About 70 schools are members of NIFA, but only 30 or so annually qualify for competition, which is based on regional wins.

UND also garnered leading honors in several other SAFECON competition events:

*UND student William Gardner won the No. 2 spot in the National Top Pilot Award category; his teammate Jamie Marshall also garnered a top 10 spot.

*Gardner was No. 2  Top Scoring Male Contestant; UND competitors Kyle Schurb, Jamie Marshall, Erik Johnson, David Edmonds, and Greg Weseman also placed in the top 20 in this category.

*The Judges Trophy No. 1 win went to UND, with 3436 points overall, 256 points ahead of No. 2 scoring Embry-Riddle.

*The SAFECON competition’s Craig Morrison Award—given for pre-flight scanning and computer accuracy skills—went to UND’s Greg Weseman; UND’s Scott Meyer and David Edmonds also earned Top 10 spots.