University Letter

UND's faculty and staff newsletter

UND Flying Team soars at SAFECON 2023

The University of North Dakota Flying Team has once again found success on the national stage, taking second place overall and winning several individual events at the 2023 National Safety and Flight Evaluation Conference contest, hosted this year in Oshkosh, Wisc., May 8-13.

In similar results to last year’s SAFECON competition, UND took home the Judges Trophy and first place overall in ground events. UND pilots also earned top marks in four separate events of the 12 total comprising the competition.

UND’s team of 12 students also earned the Safety Award, recognizing the group’s attention to details and processes crucial to aviation safety throughout the week-long event.

“We would like to thank the UND Flying Team for all the hours spent studying, simulating and flying in preparation for this competition,” said Robert Kraus, dean of the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences. “We would also like to congratulate them on another outstanding performance, beating out 28 other teams.

“They continue the longstanding tradition of finishing first or second for the 33rd time since 1985, when UND won its first national title.”

Indeed, UND has maintained excellence in the annual competition established by the National Intercollegiate Flying Association. SAFECON represents a comprehensive test for pilots’ skills and draws hundreds of collegiate pilots from across the country.

UND’s top marks came in the following events: Aircraft Preflight, Ground Trainer, Crew Resource Management/Line Oriented Flight Training (CRM/LOFT) and Traditional Navigation.

In the Aircraft Preflight and Ground Trainer events, the UND Flying Team “swept the podium” with the amount of competitors it was allowed to enter, taking first and second and first through third, respectively.

Among other events, UND had several top-ten finishes. The team’s point total left them only short of the repeat champion, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – Prescott. Full results are available on the NIFA website.

Lewis Liang, associate professor of aviation and head coach, said this year’s team was firing on all cylinders after many members attended their first national competition the year prior.

“We at one point nicknamed ourselves the ‘Green Machine’ because we were running so smoothly,” Liang said. “Their diligence and discipline stood out to the judges, and it’s why we won the Safety Award this year.

“Though we didn’t come out on top this time, I’m really excited about the depth we have moving forward, as well as the work ethic that has been part of our recipe for many years.”

“This team worked extremely hard all year,” said Ryan Guthridge, assistant professor of aviation and assistant coach. “The Judges Trophy shows that pound-for-pound we were the strongest team at the competition. It’s a testament to our hard work and high performance throughout the year.”


Members of the UND Flying Team for SAFECON 2023 are Co-Captains Jebadiah Sussenbach (Edina, Minn.) and Carson Wells (Bristol, Ind.), Caroline Kelley (Lakeville, Minn.), Mikayla Weiss (Grand Forks, N.D.), Cole Yokoyama (Kanehoe, Hawaii), Nathaniel Dietz (Chatfield, Minn.), Matthew Cleveland (Sycamore Ill.), Andreas Testerman, Max Langerud (Worthington, Minn.), Blake Nahin (Los Angeles, Calif.), Taylon Haecker and Aaron Schwartz (Buffalo Gove, Minn.).