WMU News

Sky Broncos gain berth at national championship

Oct. 28, 2003

KALAMAZOO -- Nabbing nearly half of the available points at a six-school competition, Western Michigan University's Sky Broncos flew to resounding win at the Oct. 14-18 National Intercollegiate Flying Association's Region III competition at Ohio University. The win guarantees the team a berth at next April's national championship in Tennessee.

The 14-member precision flight team from WMU's College of Aviation captured 329 out of a possible 660 points at the event, which was held at OU's regional airport in Albany, Ohio. The WMU team's closest competitors, OU and Ohio State University, finished with 129 and 112 points, respectively. Also competing were the University of Cincinnati, Kent State University and Andrews University.

NIFA regional and national 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 Marc Kobaissi of Barrington, Ill., earned "top pilot" honors at the event. Three of the other four finalists for the award were his Sky Bronco teammates: Marshall Lynn of Holly, Mich.; Ian Alexander of Grandville, Mich.; and Jelani Kelley of Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

According to Head Coach Tom Grossman, the team did "an awesome job" at the competition. He noted the team's point total was close to the 336 points scored by WMU's 2001-02 team, which went on to win the national championship in 2002.

The Region III win means the Sky Broncos have earned a berth at the 2004 NIFA championship, which will be held next April at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tenn. WMU aviation teams have placed in the top three in national competition for 12 consecutive years.

The 2003-04 Sky Broncos are led by co-captains Ian Alexander, an aviation flight science major from Grandville, Mich., and Jelani Kelley, an aviation maintenance technology major from Bloomfield Hills, Mich. Both Alexander and Kelley have been with the team since the 2001-02 season.

2003-04 Sky Broncos

Ian Alexander of Grandville, Mich., is a 2001 graduate of Grandville High School and is the son of Janice and Michael Alexander. He is a junior, majoring in aviation flight science and co-captain of the Sky Broncos. Alexander took second in the computer accuracy, flight simulator and power-off landing events; third in preflight inspection; fifth in the message drop; and fourth in the top-pilot ranking.

Robbie Beechuk of Plymouth, Mich., is a 2001 graduate of Detroit Catholic Central High School in Redford, Mich., and the son of Lorraine and Daniel Beechuk of Plymouth. He is a junior majoring in integrated supply matrix management. Beechuk took fourth in aircraft recognition.

Andrew Drake, a 2000 graduate of Huron High School in Ann Arbor, Mich., currently lives in Kalamazoo. He is the son of Debra Nystrom and Thomas Drake of Chico, Calif., and is a senior majoring in aviation flight science. Drake took first in preflight inspection and third in the computer accuracy event.

Travis Epp of Clarklake, Mich., is a 2001 graduate of Napoleon High School. He is the son of Jan Epp of Clarklake and Rodger Epp of Howell, Mich., and is a junior majoring in aviation flight science. Epp placed seventh in the computer accuracy event.

Garrett Heinz of Birmingham, Mich., is a 2002 graduate of Brother Rice High School in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., and is the son of Joan and Warren Heinz. He is a freshman majoring in aviation flight science. Heinz placed seventh in the simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation event.

David Jackson of Carelton, Mich., is a 2000 graduate of Airport High School and is the son of Sheryl Spencer and Dan Jackson. He is a junior majoring in aviation flight science. Jackson placed fifth in the computer accuracy event.

Mike Kalinski of Garden City, Mich., is a 2000 graduate of Garden City High School and is the son of Barb and John Kalinski. He is a senior majoring in aviation flight science.

Jelani Kelley of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., is a 2001 graduate of Lahser High School and the son of Carol and Marcus Kelley. He is a junior majoring in aviation maintenance technology and co-captain of the Sky Broncos. Kelley placed first in power-off landings, third in aircraft recognition, seventh in short-field landings. He took fifth in the top-pilot standings.

Marc Kobaissi of Barrington, Ill., is a 2000 graduate of Barrington High School and is the son of Barbara and Hassan Kobaissi. He is a senior majoring in aviation flight science. Kobaissi took first in the flight simulation and aircraft recognition events, second in the simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation and navigation events, and fourth in short-field landings and power-off landings. He was recognized as "Top Pilot" at the competition.

Justin Lipka of Ira, Mich., is a 2001 graduate of Anchor Bay High School in New Baltimore, Mich. He is the son of Debby Lipka and is a junior majoring in aviation flight science. Lipka placed fifth in the flight simulation event.

Marshall Lynn of Holly, Mich., is a 2000 graduate of St. Mary's Prep School in Orchard Lake, Mich. He is the son of Therese and Dwight Lynn and is a senior majoring in aviation flight science. Lynn placed first in navigation, second in aircraft recognition and short-field landings, third in power-off landings, and 10th in the message drop. He captured second place in the top-pilot standings.

Jonathan Pridgeon of Montgomery, Mich., is a 2001 graduate of Reading (Mich.) High School. The son of Diane and Mike Pridgeon, he is a senior majoring in aviation flight science. Pridgeon placed fifth in the aircraft recognition event.

Amanda Renouf of Whitehall, Mich., is the daughter of Marj and Jerry Renouf. A home-schooled student before college, she is currently a senior in aviation flight science. Renouf placed third in the simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation event.

Aaron Trombley of Medford, N.J., is a 1995 graduate of Shawnee High School and is the son of Joyce and Eugene Trombley. He is a senior majoring in aviation flight science. Trombley placed first in computer accuracy, second in preflight inspection, sixth in short-field landings and navigation, and seventh in power-off landings.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 269 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu


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