KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University's Sky Broncos finished fourth in the National Intercollegiate Flying Association's championship competition, which concluded May 17 in Columbus, Ohio.
Competing against teams representing 27 of the top aviation schools in the nation, the 12-member WMU team came in a close second in flight events and seventh in ground events to place fourth overall. The event winner was Southern Illinois University. Coming in second and third, respectively, were Embry Riddle Aeronautical University-Prescott and the University of North Dakota.
Practice pays off
"I am extremely happy with the team's performance this year on the national stage," says Sky Broncos Head Coach Ryan Seiler, a faculty specialist II in the College of Aviation. "The narrow second place finish in flying events is the team’s best performance in a decade and was a high-emphasis item for us during practice this year. We're proud to continue representing WMU against the best aviation programs in the nation and demonstrate the high caliber of the faculty, staff and students in the College of Aviation. We are looking forward to defending our regional title this fall and contending for a national championship again next year."
Schools earn the right to compete at nationals by winning or placing second in regional competitions. The Sky Broncos qualified for this year's competition by winning last October's NIFA Region III event on their home field. The team last won the national title in 2002.
NIFA competitions pit schools against each other in seven ground events and four flying events. Team points are earned by competitors who place in the top 20 in each of the events.
This year's Sky Broncos were led by team captain Joseph Batchelder of Grand Haven. Event captains were Alex Bych of Somers, Connecticut, and Elizabeth Bates of Plymouth, Massachusetts. Also traveling with the team was Assistant Coach Marty Coaker, an alumnus from the 2002 national championship team and a captain for Republic Airlines.
The names of Sky Broncos team members and any individual honors won by them at this month's national 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' hometown and high school, major and placements in 11 scored events.
- Patrick Allen of Willowbrook, Illinois, is a 2013 graduate of Hinsdale Central High School and is studying aviation flight science and flight administration at WMU.
- Joseph Batchelder of Grand Haven, is a 2009 alumnus of Western Michigan Christian High School in Norton Shores and is studying aviation flight science at WMU. Batchelder was the pilot on the two-person team that placed first in navigation. He also was pilot on the two-person team that tied for fifth in message drop and the pilot for the two-person team that placed 14th in crew resource management/line-oriented flight training. Individually, he placed first in computer accuracy, ninth in simulated IFR flight and 12th in power-off landing. Batchelder was the second-highest-scoring contestant in both the overall and male contestant rankings, and he came in sixth for top-pilot rankings.
- Elizabeth Bates of Plymouth, Massachusetts, is a 2012 graduate of Plymouth South High School and is studying aviation flight science at WMU. Bates was part of a two-person team that placed first in navigation. She also placed fifth in SCAN—simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation. Bates was the fourth-highest-scoring female contestant at the event.
- Alex Bych of Somers, Connecticut, graduated from Somers High School in 2011 and is studying aviation flight science. Bych was the drop master on the two-person team that tied for fifth in message drop. He placed seventh in short-field approach and landing and in aircraft recognition. Bych placed eighth among top-scoring overall and top-scoring male contestants.
- Kevin Davis of Aurora, Illinois, is majoring in aviation flight science. He is a 2011 graduate of Waubonsie Valley High School.
- Devvyn Fader of Essexville, is a 2013 graduate of Garber High School and is studying aviation flight science.
- Andrew Koch of Chelsea, is a 2011 graduate of Chelsea High School and is studying aviation flight science. Koch placed fourth in power-off landing and fifth in short-field approach and landing. He also was part of the two-person team that came in third in navigation. He came in fourth in the top-pilot standings and was sixth in the overall top-scoring male and top-scoring overall contestants.
- Conner Murdock of Oakland, graduated from Romeo High School in 2013 and is an aviation flight science student.
- Luke Ostrom of Orland Park, Illinois graduated from Carl Sandburg High School in 2013 and is studying aviation flight science.
- Chris Reichert of Climax, graduated from Climax-Scotts High School in 2013 and is an aviation flight science student. Reichert was the pilot on the two-person team that placed third in navigation and was the co-pilot for the two-person team that placed 14th in crew resource management/line-oriented flight training. Individually, he placed 11th in computer accuracy. Reichert placed 13th in top-scoring overall and top-scoring male contestant rankings. He was 12th in the top-pilot standings.
- Randall Walliser of San Mateo, California, is a 2011 graduate of Hillsdale High School and is studying aviation flight science.
- Amanda Marie Zeeb of Angola, Indiana, is a 2002 graduate of Angola High School and is studying aviation flight science. She won the Outstanding Team Member award for WMU at the national championship.