WMU Sky Broncos qualify for national competition

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Photo of WMU aircraft in flight.

Sky Broncos place in national competition.

KALAMAZOO—Western Michigan University's precision flight team, the Sky Broncos, took third place in the National Intercollegiate Flying Association Region III competition earlier this month, qualifying the team for next spring's national competition, which will be held May 6-13 at Ohio State University.

The 12-member WMU team competed in NIFA's Safety and Evaluation Conference at Ohio State Oct. 9-13. The Sky Broncos took second place in both ground events and third place in flight events, finishing third overall. Ohio State University captured first place, and Kent State University placed second. All three teams will advance to the national competition.

NIFA regional competitions pit schools against each other in five ground events and four flying events. Team points are earned by competitors who place in the top 10 in each of the events. Sky Bronco team members captured four of those top-10 slots in two ground events.

According to Sky Bronco Head Coach Ryan Seiler, this year's team is made up largely of new pilots, having lost to graduation numerous seniors on last year's team.

"The most senior people on the team were competing in only their second regional competition, and for half of the team, it was their first competition," Seiler notes. "Even with their inexperience, they still represented themselves and the University very well."

Individual honors won by Sky Broncos at the regional event included a Top-Scoring Male Contestant designation won by Joseph Batchelder of Grand Haven and second place in the Top Scoring Female Contestant ranking won by Elizabeth Bates of Plymouth, Mass.

The Sky Broncos are coached by Seiler, who is Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative program coordinator. Assistant coaches are Chief Flight Instructor Tom Grossman, Lead Flight Instructors Steve Tkachuk and Jim Whittles, and former Sky Bronco team members Kaitlin Klingler and Nate McCune.

2012 Sky Broncos

Below is information on the team members and their first- through 10th-place finishes at the 2012 NIFA regionals at Ohio State University.

  • Joseph Batchelder, of Grand Haven, Mich., is studying aviation flight science. He graduated from Western Michigan Christian High School in Norton Shores, Mich., in 2009. He was part of the first-place navigation team and the fifth-place message drop team. He placed second in power-off landings and computer accuracy, fourth in short-field landings, fifth in the ground trainer event and ninth in preflight inspection. He was the top scoring male contestant.
  • Elizabeth Bates, of Plymouth, Mass., is an aviation flight science major. She's a 2012 graduate of Plymouth South High School. She placed sixth in simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation and was second in the top scoring female contestant ranking.
  • Indy Bernard, of Wexford, Penn., is an aviation flight science major. He graduated from Pine-Richland High School in Gibsonia, Penn., in 2012.  He placed 10th in simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation
  • Alexander Bych, of Somers, Conn., is a freshman studying aviation flight science. He graduated from Somers High School in 2011. He placed third in aircraft recognition.
  • Drew Grooters, of Lamont, Mich., is an aviation flight science major. He graduated from Hudsonville (Mich.) High School in 2007. He placed ninth in simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation.
  • Louis Gumma, of Palatine, Ill., is an aviation administration major. He graduated from St. Viator High School in Arlington Heights, Ill., in 2012.
  • Takuya Kutsuzawa, of Saitama, Japan, is an aviation flight science major. He graduated from Toin Gakuen High School in Yokohama, Japan, in 2009. He was part of the first-place navigation team and placed eighth in computer accuracy.
  • Ramon Ramirez, of Buckley, Mich., is an aviation administration major. He graduated from St. Francis High School in Traverse City, Mich., in 2006. Ramirez placed first in both computer accuracy and simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation and seventh in preflight inspection. He was part of the third-place navigation team and placed ninth in the top-scoring contestant ranking.
  • Chris Reichert, of Climax, Mich., is an aviation flight science major. He graduated from Climax-Scotts High School in 2010. He was part of the third-place navigation team and the fifth-place message drop team. He also placed fourth in computer accuracy and computer accuracy, fifth in aircraft recognition, eighth in preflight inspection and 10th in short-field landings. He placed seventh in the top-scoring contestant ranking.
  • Ruksit Sunpa-a-sa, of Tweewattana, Bangkok, is an aviation flight science major. He graduated from Mt. Aspiring College in Wanaka, New Zealand, in 2011.
  • Chelsea Tinker of Kalamazoo is an aviation flight science major. She graduated from Dowagiac (Mich.) Union High School in 2007.
  • Randall Walliser, of San Mateo, Calif., is an aviation flight science major. He graduated from Hillsdale High School in San Mateo, Calif., in 2011.