Sky Broncos advance to national competition

contact: Deanne Puca
| WMU News

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University's precision flight team, the Sky Broncos, won the National Intercollegiate Flying Association Region III Safety and Flight Evaluation Conference held Oct. 14-19 in Columbus, Ohio. Capturing first place in flight events and second in ground events at regionals, WMU aviators qualified for the 2019 NIFA national SAFECON set to take place May 13-19 in Janesville, Wisconsin.

Photo of WMU's Sky Bronco team and coaches on a stage in front of a curtain.

The Sky Bronco precision flight team is coached by Aviation Faculty Specialist II Ryan Seiler along with assistant coach Alex Austin, a former Sky Broncos competitor and current flight instructor with the College of Aviation.

This year's win marks the sixth consecutive regional championship for the 13-member team that is coached by Aviation Faculty Specialist II Ryan Seiler along with assistant coach Alex Austin, a former Sky Bronco's competitor and current flight instructor with the College of Aviation.

"We are extremely proud of how our young team competed to win our sixth consecutive regional title. Most of our students competed in numerous events for the first time," Seiler says. "It is never easy to beat Ohio State on its home field and have the region's top pilot, as well."

Competing against the Sky Broncos in the regional event were flight teams from Bowling Green State, Kent State, Ohio and Ohio State universities. Teams earn points for members who finish in the top 10 in a series of flight and ground events. WMU's team accrued 250 points during the event. Ohio State placed second with 241 points.

Last year's Sky Broncos team finished seventh in the national competition, competing against teams from 27 other colleges and universities around the country.

2018-19 Sky Broncos team

Below is information on the 2018-19 Sky Broncos team members and their first- through 10th-place finishes at the 2018 NIFA Region III SAFECON held at Ohio State University.

  • Austin Barrett is from Davison and studying aviation flight science. He placed second in aircraft preflight inspection, seventh as dropmaster in message drop and 10th in computer accuracy.
  • Brett Been is from Orland Park, Illinois, and studying aviation flight science. Been was voted this year's team captain. He was the third-highest-scoring contestant in the competition, placing first in short-field landing, third as pilot in message drop, third as a pilot in navigation, sixth in power-off landing and 10th in simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation.
  • Brandon Jackson is from Daykin, Nebraska, and studying aviation flight science. He placed third as a safety observer in navigation, third in simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation and seventh in aircraft preflight inspection.
  • Matthieu Menard is from Culver, Indiana, and studying aviation flight science. He placed second in aircraft recognition.
  • Nicholas Olnhausen is from Toledo, Ohio, and studying aviation flight science. 
  • Lauren Quandt is from Grosse Ile and studying aviation fight science. She was the fifth-highest-scoring contestant and placed third in power-off landing, fourth in computer accuracy, fifth as pilot in navigation, seventh as pilot and also ninth as pilot in message drop, and ninth in short-field landing.
  • Jim Ray is from Davison and studying aviation flight science. He was Region III Top Pilot, the highest-scoring contestant, placing first in power-off landing, second in computer accuracy, second as pilot in navigation, second in short-field landing, fifth in ground trainer and ninth as dropmaster in message drop.
  • Charles Rickman IV is from Imlay City and studying aviation flight science. He placed sixth in computer accuracy.
  • James Rundhaug is from Howell and studying aviation flight science.
  • Ryan Sewell is from Carlsbad, California, and studying aviation flight science. He was the seventh-highest-scoring contestant and placed first in simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation, third as dropmaster in message drop, third in short-field landing and fifth as safety observer in navigation.
  • Jack Skoczen is from St. Charles, Illinois, and studying aviation flight science. He placed eighth in aircraft recognition.
  • Justin Teegardin is from Carson City and studying aviation flight science. He placed first in aircraft preflight inspection and eighth in computer accuracy.
  • Mathew VanderWall is from Hart and studying geography. He placed second as safety observer in navigation and eighth in simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation.

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