WMU News

Sky Broncos head to Tennessee for national competition

April 20, 2004

BATTLE CREEK, Mich.--Western Michigan University's precision flight team, the Sky Broncos, heads for Tennessee Wednesday, April 21, to prepare for the National Intercollegiate Flying Association's championship competition April 27 through May 1.

The 15-member Sky Bronco team will be looking for favorable weather conditions Wednesday to leave its home field at Battle Creek's W.K. Kellogg Airport and fly six WMU planes to Smyrna, Tenn., for the competition, which attracts the top collegiate aviators from around the nation. The need to take advantage of good weather conditions could cause the team to depart as early as Tuesday, April 20.

The Sky Broncos from WMU's College of Aviation dominated NIFA's Region III competition last October to earn a berth in this month's national event, which will be held at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro and on the school's neighboring airfield in Smyrna. The Sky Broncos last won the national championship in 2002 and have placed in the top three in national competition for 12 consecutive years.

This year's event, known as SAFECON 2004, begins Tuesday, April 27, and concludes Saturday, May 1, with an evening awards banquet. About 400 aviators from 30 competing NIFA member schools have qualified for the championship event. Results of the competition will not be known until late in the evening of May 1.

NIFA national 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 10 in each of the events. A team first- or second-place finish at a regional competition means the team qualifies for a spot in the national competition.

Head coach Tom Grossman who is the College of Aviation's chief flight instructor, says his team, which finished third in the competition last year, will bring more experience to the competition this year.

"I think the team is a lot more seasoned and balanced in terms of having significant strength in all of the competitions events," Grossman says. "We have four graduating team members who were part of the 2002 championship team, and this is their chance to bring home one last championship as Sky Broncos. A couple of team members also are seriously eyeing that top pilot designation."

Grossman says the early departure will give the team nearly a week's worth of pre-event practice. Team members will have an opportunity to become familiar with the terrain around Mufreesboro and Smyrna, as well as become comfortable with flight control operations and landing patterns at the airfield.

"That will be especially important for our pilots involved in the landing and navigation events," he says.

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.

For detailed information on SAFECON 2004, visit the event Web site at <mtsu32.mtsu.edu:11416>

Below is a list of members of the 2004 Sky Broncos team as well as the names of their hometowns.

Ian Alexander, a junior from Grandville, Mich.
Robbie Beechuk, a junior from Plymouth, Mich.
Andrew Drake, a graduating senior from Kalamazoo
Travis Epp, a junior from Clarklake, Mich.
David Jackson, a junior from Carleton, Mich.
Garrett Heinz, a sophomore from Birmingham, Mich.
Michael Kalinski, a senior from Garden City, Mich.
Jelani Kelley, a junior from Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
Marc Kobaissi, a graduating senior from Barrington, Ill.
Justin Lipka, a junior from Ira, Mich.
Marshall Lynn, a graduating senior from Holly, Mich.
Joshua Niedzwiecki, a junior from Waterford, Mich.
Jonathan Pridgeon, a junior from Montgomery, Mich.
Amanda Renouf, a graduating senior from Whitehall, Mich.
Aaron Trombley, a graduating senior from Medford, N.J.

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

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