After winning what’s considered the most elite collegiate aviation award in May, the Kansas State University Salina Flight Team is getting even more recognition for its talent.
At the National Intercollegiate Flying Association’s SAFECON regional competition Oct. 20-24 in Warrensburg, Missouri, flight team member Tosh Taylor received top pilot honors, beating out more than 70 participants for the award. K-State Salina placed second overall in the team category and each member had at least one top 20 finish in individual events.
SAFECON brings together collegiate aviation students from across the country to compete in nine different events for regional competition, with the top three teams from each regional going on to the national championship in May 2015. K-State Salina participates in Region VI against teams like Oklahoma State University; University of Nebraska, Omaha; University of Oklahoma; and St. Louis University.
Taylor, senior in professional pilot, Riley, also was named top pilot at last year’s regional. The honor is awarded to the participant with the most points after competing in six particular events. The competition even has a category for the top-scoring male contestant as well as overall top-scoring contestant, accolades that Taylor also won.
“I felt a lot of pressure at this year’s regional to live up to the top pilot title I won last year,” Taylor said. “But I proved to myself that hard work really does pay off and I can handle that stress. I always have high expectations of myself as a pilot and this competition put a lot of things into perspective for me.”
Taylor says he chose the aviation path after high school because he wanted to have a unique career that most people only dream of. After a summer internship flight instructing at the naval academy in Annapolis, Maryland, Taylor has been inspired to join the U.S. Navy when he graduates from K-State Salina in December.
“I can’t wait to hop into the seat of a fighter jet and travel the world,” Taylor said.
The regional competition consisted of a variety of tests both on the ground and in the air, including landing a plane accurately, navigating a flight plan, attempting to hit a target while dropping an item from the air and recognizing an aircraft’s manufacturer, model and nickname from a quick glimpse. In Taylor’s individual events, he placed first in short-field landing, second in computer accuracy, third in preflight, fourth in navigation and power off landing, sixth in ground trainer and eighth in SCAN.
Along with Taylor, members of the K-State Salina Flight Team, all professional pilot majors, who competed at regionals and their individual placings, if earned, included:
Alex Zinser, senior, Roeland Park, eighth in navigation, 17th in aircraft recognition and 20th in short field landing; and Cameron Calvert, senior, 13th in computer accuracy and 16th in SCAN, and Austin Bally, freshman, 12th in message drop, both from Wichita.
From out of state:
Tyler Thull, junior, Fort Collins, Colorado, seventh in aircraft recognition; Chris Van Nostrand, junior, Lincoln, Nebraska, 20th in aircraft recognition; Zachary Pope, senior, Omaha, Nebraska, fourth in navigation and aircraft recognition; Shane Richardson, senior, Albuquerque, New Mexico, first in ground trainer and SCAN, second in short field landing, eighth in navigation, 11th in preflight and 15th in power off landing; Ian Barnhart, junior, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, third in short field landing, fifth in preflight, 10th in aircraft recognition, 12th in message drop and 19th in navigation; and Matt Elston, junior, Conroe, Texas, 19th in navigation.
The flight team had tryouts at the beginning of the school year for those interested in being a part of the competition team. Members practice three days a week as well as on their own time. While the SAFECON regional is primarily an opportunity for the best and brightest collegiate aviation students to demonstrate their knowledge and training, it also gives the competitors a chance to connect and build friendships with other universities.
“I’ll never forget the night when our flight team went to a restaurant to eat after a day of competition and about three other teams showed up. We decided to put away the rivalries and just be people getting to know one another,” said Bert Hutchison, K-State Salina flight staff assistant and team adviser. “We even put our cellphones in the middle of the table to get rid of the distraction and just focus on the conversation.”
The K-State Salina Flight Team is currently training for the National Intercollegiate Flying Association’s SAFECON national championship, which will be in May 2015 at the Ohio State University Airport. The flight team won the Loening Trophy at the 2014 nationals, recognizing K-State Salina as the most outstanding all-around aviation program in the country.
Story by Julee Cobb / KSU Salina