Sky Broncos bring home fifth consecutive regional championship

contact: Cheryl Roland
| WMU News

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University's precision flight team, the Sky Broncos, won the National Intercollegiate Flying Association Region III event Oct. 16-21 and has qualified for the 2018 national competition next April at Indiana State University. Capturing the top spot in both flight and ground events at regionals, WMU aviators qualified for the national competition April 30 to May 5.

Members of the 2017 regional Sky Broncos team standing in a hangar in front of an airplane holding a W flag.

WMU's 2017 regional Sky Broncos team

This year's win marks the fifth consecutive regional championship for the 15-member team that is coached by Aviation Faculty Specialist I Ryan Seiler along with assistant coach Marty Coaker.

"Our coaching staff is extremely proud of the true team effort that was put forth," Coaker says. "Every member of the team helped make this win possible."

Competing against the Sky Broncos in the regional event were flight teams from Bowling Green State, Kent State, Ohio and Ohio State universities. Teams earn points for members who finish in the top 10 in a series of flight and ground events. WMU's team accrued 292 points during the event. Ohio State placed second with 187 points.

Last year's Sky Broncos team finished fourth in the national competition, competing against teams from 27 colleges and universities around the country.

2017-18 Sky Broncos team

Below is information on the 2017-18 Sky Broncos team members and their first- through 10th-place finishes at the 2017 NIFA regionals held at the W.K. Kellogg Airport in Battle Creek.

  • Alex Austin is a senior from Mississauga, Ontario, studying aviation flight science. He was the top-scoring contestant for the competition and placed first for top pilot. He also placed first in aircraft preflight inspection and computer accuracy, tied for first in power-off landings, second as a pilot on a navigation team and fourth in short-field landings.
  • Austin Barrett is a sophomore from Davison studying aviation flight science. He placed seventh in computer accuracy and eighth in aircraft preflight inspection.
  • Brett Been is a sophomore from Orland Park, Illinois, studying aviation flight science and management. He was the sixth-highest-scoring contestant in the competition, placing first in simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation, sixth in short-field landings and eighth in power-off landings.
  • Spencer Hamilton is a freshman from Wheaton, Illinois, studying aviation flight science.
  • Brandon Jackson is a sophomore from Daykin, Nebraska, studying aviation flight science and aviation management and operations.
  • Wendell Kury is a senior from Commack, New York, studying aviation flight science. He placed second in aircraft recognition and fourth in ground trainer.
  • Matthieu Menard is a sophomore from Culver, Indiana, studying aviation flight science.
  • Joshua Neinhaus is a senior from Grand Rapids studying aviation flight science. He scored the second highest points of any contestant in the competition and came in in second place for top pilot. He placed first in aircraft recognition, tied for first in power-off landings, third as pilot on a navigation team and fifth in short-field landings.
  • Lauren Quandt is a senior from Grosse Ile studying aviation fight science. She placed fourth in computer accuracy.
  • Jim Ray is a sophomore from Davison studying aviation flight science. He was the third-highest-scoring contestant and placed fourth for top pilot. He placed first in ground trainer and short-field landings, second in computer accuracy, third as a safety observer in navigation, and fifth in power-off landings.
  • Charles Rickman IV is a junior from Dryden studying aviation flight science and management. He placed fifth in simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation.
  • Ryan Sewell is a senior from Carlsbad, California, studying aviation flight science. He placed second as part of a navigation team and fourth in simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation.
  • Mathew Smith is a senior from Sand Lake studying aviation flight science. He was the eighth-highest-scoring contestant, placing second in ground trainer and third in aircraft recognition.
  • Justin Teegardin is a sophomore from Carson City studying aviation flight science. He placed third in aircraft preflight inspection and eighth in computer accuracy.
  • Mathew VanderWall is a junior from Hart studying geography.

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