Posts Tagged ‘NIFA’
Well, I think the title pretty much says it all. Nervousness consumed a majority of the team members during the day Friday. The awards banquet was scheduled for 6:00 pm that night and everyone was trying to keep their minds occupied. We spent a good part of the day relaxing and having fun. Some went out in search for Halloween costumes while some hit a bucket of balls at the nearby driving range. When it became time to depart for the banquet, it was all business. Team members and coaches put on their nicest clothes and loaded up into the vans. The banquet was held at the Embassy Suites and was quite fancy. The team met chief CFI John Voges, department chair Dr. David NewMyer, as well as other SIU officials. As we sat at our tables, waiters began serving a very good 3-course meal. Hands down, it was the best food all week. We mingled with some of the other competitors as well as with team member’s parents who were able to attend. When chief judge Steve Halcomb stepped up to the podium, a silence fell upon the room; everyone wanted to know the same thing. After a brief introduction, Steve cut right to the chase with results. To save space, I will only announce competitors that placed in the top 10. If you would like to see complete results, they are posted on the NIFA website here.
The first event announced was the E6B event. Dan McMahon placed 9th, Scott Blair placed 7th, Ryan Veldman placed 3rd, Justin Lopez placed 2nd, and Dan Harrington placed 1st with a perfect score. We started out great with all 5 competitors placing and getting points for our team. In the Simulated Comprehensive Aircraft Navigation (SCAN) event, Courtney Copping placed 10th, Josh Mech placed 6th, Dan Harrington placed 4th, and Ryan Veldman placed 1st. Again, great results as 4 out of the 5 participants placed. In aircraft recognition, Sam Oas placed 3rd and Taylor Breum placed 1st. At this point we were feeling pretty good since SIU was, so far, the most often school called out. In the aircraft simulator event, Taylor Breum placed 1st by a large margin. In the preflight event, SIU swept first and second place with Dan Harrington earning a mere 2 points more than Scott Blair.
Everyone was all smiles since SIU had placed first in every ground event. This is the first time this has happened in quite a long time. As the announcement for overall scores came in, none of us were that surprised. With almost double the points of second place Lewis University, the SIU Flying Salukis were named the 2011 NIFA Region VIII champions. SIU coach Jeff Jaynes was awarded the safety award because of his actions that brought competitors practicing landings back to ground safely right before the hail hit. The Flying Saluki’s head coach Nate Lincoln was awarded coach of the year for coaching last year’s team to a national championship and this year’s team to a regional championship. Dan Harrington earned himself the top competitor award by brining SIU 27 of our total 103 points. All in all, SIU had a fantastic regional performance and hope to build off last week’s success to bring home another national championship. The national competition will be held in the spring of 2012 at Kansas State University.
I would like to end this post with a big thanks to the team; especially Ryan Veldman for doing so well at his last NIFA event. In the three and a half years Ryan has served on the Flying Salukis, Ryan has brought a plethora of knowledge, success, and help to other team mates. Both myself and the rest of the team wish him blue skies and great success as he enters the real world.
Students who have previously attended the National Intercollegiate Flying Association’s Region VIII meet are all familiar with the infamous “NIFA cold front”. In short, a cold front seems to find the regional competition every year and bring less-than-perfect weather with it. This year, region VIII got a little more than it bargained for. More on that later though. We arrived in Murfreesboro, Tennessee this past weekend ready for a week full of hard work and a bit of fun too. Coaches and select senior members flew down in the competition aircraft (two Cessna 152s and two Cessna 172Rs) while the rest of us drove in university-provided vans. The four-hour trip was comparably easier than the 7 hour drive home and filled with much better scenery.
Upon arriving at the airport we spent some time studying for our ground events as well as socializing with the other teams. Region VIII is composed of Southern Illinois University, Lewis University, University of Illinois, Purdue University, Indiana State University, and the host school, Middle Tennessee State University. The weekend and most of Monday was spent at the airport getting prepared for the competition. Weather proved to be good with sunny skies and minimal cross winds. While those in flying events practiced their landings, individuals in ground events spent their time hitting the books. As the day progressed and clouds began to form, competitors began to identify the approaching NIFA cold front. Knowing that practice time was going to be limited by weather, each landing became more important. Monday was concluded with dinner and sleep soon after.
Tuesday began bright and early with the official start of the meet. The E6B competition went first followed by the simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation (SCAN) test. Aircraft recognition went later in the day. Those who did not compete in the ground events were assigned to the ramp to help move aircraft for pilots practicing landings. As lunch-time rolled around, so did the inclement weather. As we were driving to get food, it started to rain; then it started to rain sideways; then it started to hail. You are reading that correctly; hail was falling from the sky in Mid-October. The hail started small as snow then grew into the size of peas. As the hail grew in size, the sound of it hitting the car began to get louder. When it was too loud to hear, we looked outside. The entire landscape looked like a driving range as golf-ball-sized-hail poured from the sky. 10 minutes later, the rain replaced the hail and as soon as it began, it ended.
As our disbelief wore off, our minds turned to the airport and our spirits sunk. All we could think about is our aircraft. We arrived back at the airport and began to asses damages. Immediately, we noticed all of the large dents the vans collected from the storm. As we walked out to the airplanes, a depressing mood fell over the entire airport. Windows were broken, control surfaces were dented, and wings were beaten making most aircraft unairworthy. The entire airport was a scene of devastation. A coaches meeting was promptly called to determine the best course of action. The meeting was adjourned with many questions still lingering. The answers would be MIA until mechanics could inspect the planes. All flying events were postponed until the answers to those questions were found.
SIU’s mechanics flew in Wednesday morning and found two of the four aircraft to be unairworthy; One of the 152s needed a new aileron and one 172Rs needed to be ferried back to the school to have the rear window replaced. The other schools were placed in similar situations with most of the fleet unflyable. After another meeting between coaches, maintenance personnel, and event officials, all flying events were cancelled for this year regional meet. Some schools simply didn’t have the time and resources to either fix the aircraft in time or fly down replacements. Even though some schools did, in the spirit of fairness, flying events would be removed from this years competition. That means that overall scores will be determined by ground events only. While this is not a huge issue, it is disappointing. Many competitors were looking forward to demonstrating their piloting skills.
As of right now, there is the simulator and preflight event left to compete. After these two events, overall team scores can be determined. NIFA was able to move the awards banquet from Saturday night to Friday night so count on an update then. Although we are all disappointed, spirits remain high and we are continuing to focus on the remaining events. If all goes to plan, the Flying Salukis will be returning to Carbondale with first place and a spot at the National meet! Go Salukis!
Remember playing I-Spy as a kid on long car rides? Or wasting time in elementary school library with a big I-Spy book? Although I may have out-grown those days, I still get to have to opportunity to play I-Spy. Only this time it involves airplanes. One of the events that the Flying Salukis compete in at the NIFA (National Intercollegiate Flying Association) regional meet is aircraft preflight inspection. NIFA describes the event as follows: “A light, single engine general aviation airplane [most of the time, it is a Cessna 152] shall be “bugged” with at least 30 discrepancies. These discrepancies must be of such a nature that it is reasonable to expect them to be detected by a competent private pilot during the course of a normal preflight inspection.” As you would expect, some of the “bugs” are quite tricky and ones that most pilots completely overlook. Everything from missing screws to improper aircraft documents to disconnected spark plug wires are rigged in the aircraft. Participants then have 15 minutes to find as many problems as they can. The event is usually held in a closed off hangar which makes the use of a flashlight absolutely necessary. So far, I’ve done two practice inspections and have had a blast. I find it to be a great challenge to be so meticulous yet so quick in inspecting every square inch of the aircraft. It also gets your adrenalin pumping as you’re climbing into baggage compartments, underneath the tail section, on top of wings, and everything else in between. Finding all of the issues is not enough however. A competitor’s score is also made up of style points. People can lose style points for rushing, not having a smooth flow, or jumping back and forth between sections of the aircraft. This puts even more of a stress on the preflighter since once they leave a section, they can’t return without loosing style points. As the time until competition quickly diminishes (we now have less than 3 weeks!), I will continue “playing” aircraft I-Spy. I guess sometimes its good not to grow up.