Sky Broncos soar to fourth overall in 2023 national flight competition

Contact: Deanne Puca
The 2022-23 Sky Broncos

The 2022-23 Sky Broncos attend a banquet at the 2023 Safety and Flight Evaluation Conference.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University's precision flight team, the Sky Broncos, placed third in ground events and fifth in flight events, finishing fourth overall in the nation at the 2023 Safety and Flight Evaluation Conference (SAFECON) held by the National Intercollegiate Flying Association (NIFA).

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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. The team qualified for this national competition May 8-13 by taking first place in its regional competition in October.

“The difference between a successful group and others is not a lack of skill, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will. This team was willing to work on the winter weekends to put in the extra hours to stay motivated with uncertainty that traveling to this competition was a reality. There is no better way to close out my time as head coach of this team,” says Barrett.

2022-23 Sky Broncos team

Members earned points for their first- through 20th-place finishes at the 2023 NIFA SAFECON nationals at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Team members and their standings through 10th place are listed below.  All members are aviation flight science majors.

  • Kyle Albrecht, a senior from Hartland, Michigan, is the back-to-back Regional Top Pilot for NIFA Region III the past two years. At nationals, he was the second place Overall Top Pilot in the Nation. He also tied for first place in unlimited navigation and received first place in simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation, sixth place top scoring contestant and seventh place in ground trainer.

  • Jessica Bernin, a senior from Wauconda, Illinois, tied for first place in unlimited navigation.

  • Evin Cooper, a senior from Monroe, Michigan, placed second in computer accuracy.

  • Brock Fransen is a senior from Lena, Illinois.

  • Nathan Gute is a junior from Owosso, Michigan.

  • Evan Hoyle is a sophomore from Rockford, Michigan.

  • Karsten Kotchenruther is a sophomore from Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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

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

  • Naman Mody is a first-year student from Bensalem, Pennsylvania.

  • Angelo Molina is a sophomore from Davison, Michigan.

  • Nicolas Olnhausen, a senior from Toledo, Ohio, who is team captain, was the fourth Top Scoring Contestant, earning the most points for the team, and was the eighth place Top Pilot in the Nation. He also placed fifth in power-off landings, sixth in unlimited navigation and seventh in aircraft recognition.

  • Carter Peterson is a senior from Carlsbad, California.

  • Nino Serra, a senior from Macomb, Michigan, tied for first place in unlimited navigation.

  • Daniel Souppa is a first-year student from Jacksonville, Florida.

Western is slated to host the NIFA Region III competition in October.

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