Sky Broncos finish fourth in national collegiate championship

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Photo of 2012 Sky Broncos team.

Sky Broncos precision flight team 2012

KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University's precision flight team, the Sky Broncos, took fourth place in this year's National Intercollegiate Flying Association's championship competition, held May 14-19 at Kansas State University.

The 13-member WMU team from WMU's College of Aviation in Battle Creek captured third place in the championship's ground events and fourth in flight events to finish fourth overall, with perennial WMU rivals capturing the top three slots. Embry Riddle Aeronautical University-Prescott took first, while the University of North Dakota came in second and Southern Illinois University took third.

Team Captain Ben Hastings of Hillsdale, Mich., tied for first place as the top-scoring contestant at the competition, and was second place as the event's overall top pilot. He is a senior studying aviation flight science and administration.

The WMU team has finished the annual event among the top four in the nation in 20 of the past 21 years, last winning the championship in 2002. This year's team advanced to the national championship competition after winning NIFA's Region III competition in Ohio during October. The national event featured 28 teams from around the nation.

The Sky Broncos are led this year by Head Coach and Faculty Advisor Ryan Seiler, who is program coordinator of WMU's Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative. Assistant coaches are Thomas Grossman, the college's chief flight instructor, and Steve Tkachuk, a longtime WMU flight instructor and aviation specialist.

The names of Sky Broncos team members and any individual honors won by them at the national SAFECON event are shown below. Individual placements through 20th place garner points that are compiled to determine both team and individual standings. Sky Bronco information includes the team members hometowns, major, class year and placements in 11 scored events.

Sky Broncos team members

  • Joseph Batchelder of Grand Haven, Mich., is a senior studying aviation flight science. He graduated from Western Michigan Christian High School in 2009. Batchelder was part of the 11th place navigation team and placed 13th in computer accuracy.
  • Alexander Bych of Somers, Conn., is a freshman studying aviation flight science. He graduated from Somers High School in 2011.
  • Justin Guth of Palatine, Ill., is a 2011 graduate of aviation science and administration who is studying to earn a second degree in aviation flight science. He graduated from Palatine High School in 2007. Guth was part of the seventh-place crew resource management team, and he captured seventh place in aircraft recognition.
  • Benjamin Hastings of Hillsdale, Mich., is a senior studying aviation science and administration and expects to graduate in June. He is team captain and graduated from Hillsdale High School in 2008. Hastings tied for first place as the top-scoring contestant at the competition, and was second place as the event's overall top pilot. He accrued points by being part of the first-place message drop team, placing third in power-off landings, taking fourth place in aircraft preflight check, capturing third in simulated instrument flight, being part of the seventh-place crew resource management team and the 11th-place navigation team, and ranking 19th in short-field landings.
  • Kaitlin Klingler of Hillsdale, Mich., is a junior studying aviation flight science and aviation maintenance technology. She graduated from Hillsdale High School in 2008. Klingler placed sixth in computer accuracy and ninth in aircraft preflight check. She placed fourth among top-scoring female contestants at the event.
  • Takuya Kutsuzawa of Singapore is a freshman studying aviation flight science. He graduated from Toin Gakuen High School in Yokohama, Japan, in 2009. He was named WMU's "outstanding team member."
  • Kyle Mallory of Rochester, N.Y., is an April 2012 graduate of aviation science and administration. He graduated from Churchville-Chili High School in 2008. He placed second in simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation--SCAN.
  • Nathaniel McCune of Hanover, Mass., is a senior studying accountancy, and expects to graduate in December. He graduated from Hanover High School in 2008. McCune placed fifth in simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation--SCAN--and sixth in short-field landings. He placed 17th among top-scoring event contestants.
  • Ramon Ramirez of Buckley, Mich., is a junior studying aviation administration. He graduated from St. Francis High School in 2006. Ramirez placed third in simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation--SCAN.
  • Chris Reichert of Climax, Mich., is a sophomore studying aviation flight science. He graduated from Climax-Scotts/KAMSC High School in 2010.
  • Andrew Seguin of Alpena, Mich., is an April 2012 graduate of aviation flight science. He graduated from Alpena High School in 2008. Seguin was part of the first-place message drop team, and he placed 18th in aircraft recognition.
  • Reto Smith Jr. of Lithonia, Ga., is a junior studying aviation flight science. He graduated from Martin Luther King Jr. High School in 2008. Smith placed 17th in aircraft recognition.
  • Randall Walliser of San Mateo, Calif., is a freshman studying aviation flight science. He graduated from Hillsdale High School in 2011.