Sky Broncos top regional competition to advance to nationals

Contact: Deanne Puca

The 2022-23 Sky Broncos

BATTLE CREEK, Mich.—Sweeping first place in both ground and flight events, Western Michigan University's precision flight team, the Sky Broncos, brought home top honors from the National Intercollegiate Flying Association (NIFA) Region III Safety and Flight Evaluation Conference (SAFECON) held Oct. 9 to 14 in Bowling Green, Ohio.

Capturing the lead at regionals, WMU aviators now qualify for the 2023 NIFA SAFECON nationals set to take place May 8 to 13, 2023, at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

The 15-member team is led by head coach Austin Barrett and assistant coach Jack Skoczen, who are both Western graduates and current flight instructors at the College of Aviation. Ryan Seiler, aviation master faculty specialist, is the team’s faculty advisor.

Competing against the Sky Broncos 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. Western's team accrued 249 points during the event. The second-place winner was Ohio State with 189 points. See the final results

“I am humbled to have coached such a sharp, talented group of young aviators," says Barrett. "Their determination to better themselves and learn through teaching our younger members really shows looking at those results, and we will continue to let the scores speak for themselves going into nationals this spring.”

He added a notable achievement was senior Kyle Albrecht, who again was chosen as the NIFA Region III Top Pilot, an honor he also took last year. Albrecht joins alumnus Jim Ray as the only pilots in the competition over the years to win the award in back-to-back years. Ray won the award in 2018 and 2019 while competing for WMU.

The team placed second in the regional competition last year and eighth nationally out of flight teams from 26 universities.

2022-23 Sky Broncos team

Below is information on the 2022-23 Sky Broncos team members and their first- through 10th-place finishes at the 2022 NIFA Region III SAFECON, hosted by Bowling Green University. All members are aviation flight science majors.

  • Kyle Albrecht, a senior from Hartland, Michigan, was named top pilot and the top scoring contestant, placing first in Simulated Comprehensive Aircraft Navigation (SCAN), first as a pilot in unlimited navigation, second in short-field landing, third in power-off landing, fourth as a pilot in message drop, sixth as dropmaster in message drop and eighth in ground trainer.

  • Jessica Bernin, a senior from Wauconda, Illinois, was named the seventh top pilot and sixth highest-scoring contestant, placing third in aircraft preflight inspection, fourth in short-field landing, fifth in computer accuracy and ninth as safety observer in unlimited navigation.

  • Morgan Carstensen is a junior from Howell, Michigan.

  • Evin Cooper, a senior from Monroe, Michigan, was named an outstanding team member and placed second as pilot in message drop and fourth in computer accuracy.

  • Brock Fransen, a senior from Lena, Illinois, placed first in aircraft preflight inspection, third as safety observer in unlimited navigation and seventh in computer accuracy.

  • Nathan Gute, a junior from Owosso, Michigan, placed third in aircraft recognition and eighth as pilot in message drop.

  • Evan Hoyle, a sophomore from Rockford, Michigan, placed first in aircraft recognition.

  • Karsten Kotchenruther, a sophomore from Grand Rapids, Michigan, placed eighth in computer accuracy.

  • Jerry Lucas is a first-year student from Lake Villa, Illinois.

  • Nathan Merrill is a first-year student from Lincoln University, Pennsylvania.

  • Angelo Molina is a sophomore from Davison, Michigan.

  • Nicolas Olnhausen, a senior from Toledo, Ohio, is the team captain and was named the sixth top pilot and the fourth highest-scoring contestant, placing second in aircraft recognition, second as dropmaster in message drop, third as a pilot in unlimited navigation and seventh in power-off landing.

  • Carter Peterson, a senior from Carlsbad, California, was the 10th highest-scoring contestant, placing first as safety observer in unlimited navigation, second in computer accuracy, fourth in aircraft preflight inspection, fourth as dropmaster in message drop and sixth as a pilot in message drop.

  • Nino Serra, a senior from Macomb, Michigan, was named the fourth top pilot and the fifth highest-scoring contestant, placing second in SCAN, third in short-field landing, eighth as dropmaster in message drop, ninth in power-off landing, ninth in ground trainer and ninth as a pilot in unlimited navigation.

  • Daniel Souppa, a first-year student from Jacksonville, Florida, placed sixth in SCAN.

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