Sky Broncos place fifth in national championship event

contact: Cheryl Roland
| WMU News
Photo of the 2016 Sky Broncos.

2016 Sky Broncos

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University's famed precision flight team, the Sky Broncos, captured fifth place in the 2016 National Intercollegiate Flying Association championship held May 9-14 at Ohio State University.

The 16-member WMU team competed against 25 teams from colleges and universities across the nation. The Sky Broncos placed fourth in ground events and fifth in flight events, placing fifth overall.  The event winner was Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Prescott. Longtime WMU rival the University of North Dakota came in second, Southern Illinois University came in third and the host school, Ohio State, placed fourth.

Schools earn the right to compete at nationals by winning or placing second in regional competitions. The Sky Broncos qualified for this year's competition by winning last October's NIFA Region III event at Ohio State University. The Sky Broncos last won the national title in 2002.

"We had students place in the top 20 in all of the events that were contested for team points, so it was a very balanced effort between ground, simulator and flight events," says Ryan Seiler, Sky Broncos head coach and a faculty specialist in the College of Aviation.

Seiler was aided in his coaching duties by assistant coach Marty Coaker, a member of the 2002 national championship team; Tom Grossman, the college's chief flight instructor, who coached the 2002 team; Patrick Denney, a member of the 1998 national championship team; and Alex Bych, a 2015 alumnus and member of last year's team.

About the team

The names of Sky Broncos team members and any individual honors won by them at this month's national event are below. Individual placements through 20th place garner points that are compiled to determine both team and individual standings. Sky Bronco information includes each team member's hometown and high school, major and placements through 20th place in the 11 scored events.

  • Patrick Allen of Willowbrook, Illinois, is studying aviation flight science and is team captain. He graduated from Hinsdale Central High School in 2013. Allen was part of the two-pilot team that took third place in the Crew Resource Management/Line Oriented Flight event. He placed eighth in the ground trainer event, and he was part of two-person teams that took 9th in navigation and 18th place in the message-drop event. He placed 16th overall in the top competitor standings. 
  • Alex Austin of Ada, Michigan, is an aviation flight science major. He graduated from Port Credit (Ontario) High School in 2014.
  • Elizabeth Bates of Plymouth, Massachusetts, is an aviation flight science major. She graduated from Plymouth South High School in 2012. Bates captured sixth place in simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation and 18th place in aircraft preflight inspection. She was part of the two-person team that took ninth place in navigation, and she was named to the third place spot for the women's achievement award.
  • Kevin Davis of Naperville, Illinois, is an aviation flight science major. He graduated from Waubonsie Valley High School in Aurora, Illinois, in 2011. Davis placed sixth in computer accuracy.
  • Brian Erhart of Belmont, Michigan, is an aerospace engineering major. He graduated from the West Michigan Aviation Academy in Grand Rapids in 2014.
  • Devvyn Fader of Essexville, Michigan, is an aviation maintenance technology major. He graduated from Garber High School in 2013. Fader placed 11th in aircraft recognition and 17th in aircraft preflight inspection
  • Andrew Gabalski of Columbus, Ohio, is an aviation flight science major who graduated from Whetstone High School in 2014. He placed 12th in simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation.
  • Collin Kearney of Grosse Ile, Michigan, is an aviation flight science major who graduated from Grosse Ile High School in 2013. He was part of the two-person team that took third place in the Crew Resource Management/Line Oriented Flight event.  Kearney captured fifth place in power-off landings and 10th place in short-field landings. He was part of the two-person team that placed 18th in the message drop event as well as the pilot for a two-person team that took 20th place in navigation.  Kearney came in seventh place in the competition's top-pilot standings and 13th place in the top competitor ranking.
  • Wendell Kury of Commack, New York, is an aviation flight science major who graduated from Commack High School in 2012.
  • Joshua Nienhaus of Brighton, Michigan, is an aviation flight science major who graduated from the West Michigan Aviation Academy in Grand Rapids in 2014. Nienhaus captured fourth place in the instrument flight rules event and sixth place in aircraft recognition. He was selected by his teammates as outstanding team member for this year's championship event.
  • Mack Odell of Zeeland, Michigan, is an aviation flight science major who graduated from Zeeland East High School in 2013. He placed 14th in the ground trainer event and 15th in aircraft recognition. He also was part of the two-person team that took 20th place in navigation.
  • Luke Ostrom of Orland Park, Illinois, is an aviation flight science major who graduated from Carl Sandburg High School in 2013.
  • Lauren Quandt of Grosse Ile, Michigan, is an aviation flight science major who graduated from Grosse Ile High School in 2013.
  • Matthew A. Smith of Sand Lake, Michigan, is an aviation flight science major who graduated from the West Michigan Aviation Academy in Grand Rapids in 2014. He placed 17th in aircraft recognition.
  • John Vanderlaan of Spring Lake, Michigan, is an aviation flight science major who graduated from Spring Lake High School in 2011. He placed 16th in the short-field landings event.
  • Amanda Marie Zeeb of Angola, Indiana, is an aviation flight science major who graduated from Angola High School in 2002. She took 15th place in computer accuracy.

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