The K-State Salina Flight Team has landed the prestigious honor of being recognized as the most outstanding all-around aviation program in the country — and has the trophy to prove it.
For the first time in school history, the K-State Salina team was awarded the Loening Trophy at the National Intercollegiate Flying Association’s SAFECON National Championship, May 12-17, in Columbus, Ohio. The team finished 13th overall at the event.
The trophy, called the oldest and most elite of all collegiate aviation awards, was created by aviation pioneer and inventor Grover Loening and is presented annually to the aviation program that demonstrates its overall excellence. The trophy was first presented — to Harvard University — in 1929, with aviation greats Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh among the judges.
“The moment our name was called was absolutely surreal, and on top of that, we were given a standing ovation,” said Tom Karcz, assistant professor of aviation and K-State Salina Flight Team faculty adviser. “The Loening Trophy is a piece of history and we can’t wait to display it on the Salina campus.”
The trophy is made of Tiffany’s pure silver and is uninsurable and irreplaceable. It will be hand-delivered to the campus where it will remain until next year’s national competition.
In October 2013, the K-State Salina Flight Team won its National Intercollegiate Flying Association SAFECON regional for the first time in school history, competing against programs including the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University and the University of Nebraska, Omaha. The top three teams from each regional were then invited to participate at nationals. The national championship consisted of a variety of tests both on the ground and while flying, including landing a plane accurately, navigating a flight plan and attempting to hit a target while dropping an item from the air.
“The team members put their noses to the grindstone and started studying early on in the semester,” said Ian Barnhart, junior in professional pilot, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and team captain. “There were even a few nights we were up very late working in the hotel lobby. Obviously everyone’s dedication paid off, and I’m very proud of what we accomplished.”
The team has 18 members, with 12 members for the competition team after a try-out process.
While the National Intercollegiate Flying Association SAFECON National Championship is primarily an opportunity for universities to send their best and brightest aviation students to demonstrate their knowledge and training, it also gives the competitors a chance to think about the future.
“This event isn’t just about titles and trophies. It gave our students the opportunity to network with fellow competitors and potential employers,” Karcz said. “Aviation organizations and companies from across the nation attend, too, and one of our team members even had a job interview while we were there.”
Along with Barnhart, members of the K-State Salina Flight Team, all professional pilot majors, who competed at nationals and their individual placings, if earned, included:
Martin Harvey, junior, Andover; Taylor Spangler, junior, Andover, seventh in the power off landing event and 12th in short-field landing event; Tosh Taylor, senior, Riley, 17th in the ground trainer event; Alex Zinser, junior, Roeland Park; John Snyder, senior, Salina, first in the certified flight instructor event; Cameron Calvert, senior, Wichita; and Bert Hutchison, senior, Wichita, sixth in the crew resource management and line oriented flight training event and seventh in the IFR simulator event.
Tyler Thull, junior, Fort Collins, Colorado; Trevor Henson, senior, Dunlap, Illinois, sixth in the crew resource management and line oriented flight event; Alex Osborn, sophomore, Newton, Iowa; and Shane Richardson, senior, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Along with competing annually, flight team members also use their club as way to give back to the community and to connect children with aviation. Throughout the year the team is a part of several events like the All-University Open House and Candy Canes and Airplanes. It also conducts two aviation camps in the summer for kids.
The flight team received support throughout the year from the K-State Salina aviation department; the K-State Salina Student Governing Association; Verna Fitzsimmons, CEO and dean of K-State Salina; individual donors; and a variety of corporations.
Story by: Julee Cobb / K-State Salina