Eagles Flight Team Again Dominates Prestigious Southeast U.S. Regional Flying Competition

Continuing more than three decades as champions, The Eagles Flight Team from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Daytona Beach Campus has won the 2017-2018 Region IX National Intercollegiate Flying Association’s Safety and Flight Evaluation Conference (NIFA SAFECON) competition.

Embry-Riddle students received 11 first-place victories in addition to the overall SAFECON championship at Auburn University Regional Airport in Auburn, Ala., from Oct. 30 to Nov. 4. Embry-Riddle continues to the national competition in April/May in Terre Haute, Ind.

The Embry-Riddle Eagles Flight Team also placed first in the Flight Events Championship and Ground Events Championship and second in the Competition Safety Award.

Coach Richard Garner, an Embry-Riddle Flight Training Manager, said the sheer dominance of the event was remarkable, with the team scoring about 30 to 40 percent more points than the second-place competitor.

"I'm extremely proud of everyone on the team,” Garner said. “The hard work and dedication of each and every member brought this victory home. They dominated the Regional competition and with continued hard work they will set themselves up to take home top trophies at Nationals.”

Assistant Coach Winsun Lu Yang, a graduate student seeking an MBA, said team members put in a lot of time and dedication with every member of the team spending countless hours each week practicing both ground and flight events.

“Members spend most of the time practicing for ground events because of the knowledge, accuracy and speed required,” Lu Yang said. “As for flight events, mastery, precision and proficiency are vital to success. Members spend multiple hours flying the airplanes in different conditions to obtain the best practice. Becoming good at something cannot be done overnight. All the hard work that we put in throughout the year is shown through the exceptional results at this competition.”

Sixty student pilots competed in the regional competition from Embry-Riddle, Auburn University, Jacksonville University, Florida Institute of Technology and Polk State College. Embry-Riddle had 15 of its 27 Eagles Flight Team members competing. The team dominated the majority of the categories, which included aircraft preflight inspection; aircraft recognition; competition safety award; computer accuracy; ground trainer; message drop; navigation; power-off landing; short field landing; simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation; top pilot and top scoring contestant.

The National Intercollegiate Flying Association was formed for the purposes of developing and advancing aviation education; to promote, encourage and foster safety in aviation; to promote and foster communications and cooperation between aviation students, educators, educational institutions and the aviation industry; and to provide an arena for collegiate aviation competition.

Individual honors include:

Michael Benson received Top Pilot, with Tsz Him (Issac) Yeung, Christopher Krempa, Winsun Lu Yang and Steven Remingten Ten placing sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth.

“It is still very unreal to me that I received Top Pilot,” said Benson, a senior majoring in Aeronautical Science. “I competed in my first NIFA SAFECON competition last year in only one event, and I never dreamed that I would be where I am today in just one year. I am very grateful to have such a great team competing with me and giving support through internal competition, and I am also proud to represent such a wonderful University that goes above and beyond to ensure that we have all the resources we need to practice and compete. Without them, my performance wouldn't have been possible. Now our focus is shifted to Nationals, where we are hoping to get the same result.”

Benson also received the Top Scoring Contestant, with Tsz Him (Issac) Yeung taking fifth and Joshua Suarez, Winsun Lu Yang and Steven Remingten Ten placing seventh, eighth and ninth.

In the Aircraft Preflight Inspection, Tyler Rafferty placed first, with Daniel Byrnes placing second.

Tyler Rafferty also took first in the Aircraft Recognition competition, with Patrick MacKinlay placing second and Manuel Escobar, Tyler Rispoli and Daniel Byrnes placing fourth, fifth and sixth.

In Computer Accuracy, Embry-Riddle took the top five spots with Winsun Lu Yang placing first followed by Michael Benson, Joshua Suarez, Tsz Him Yeung and Steven Remingten Ten.

Joshua Suarez placed first in the Ground Trainer competition followed by Michael Benson and Steven Remingten Ten in second and third place.

Christopher Krempa placed first in Power-Off Landing, with Michael Benson placing fourth and Tsz Him Yeung in sixth.

The Short Field Landing top finisher was Christopher Krempa, with Winsun Lu Yang in third, Michael Benson in sixth, Robert Drouin in seventh, and Joshua Suarez in 10th.

Joshua Suarez also placed second in the Simulated Comprehensive Aircraft Navigation competition, with Winsun Lu Yang in third, Steven Remingten Ten in fourth, Michael Benson in sixth and Tsz Him Yeung in 10th.

In the team Navigation competition, pilot Tsz Him Yeung and safety observer Winsun Lu Yang placed first, with pilot Steven Remingten Ten and safety observer Kam Wai Leung placing second. Pilot Michael Benson and safety observer Joshua Suarez tied for fourth place with Auburn University.

For Message Drop, Embry-Riddle students Daniel Byrnes and Michael Benson placed fifth, Robert Drouin and Daniel Byrnes were seventh and Michael Benson and Joshua Suarez placed 10th.

Complete results of the 2017-2018 Region IX National Intercollegiate Flying Association’s Safety and Flight Evaluation Conference competition.

The 2017-2018 Eagles Flight Team coaches and officers, in addition to Coach Garner and Assistant Coach Lu Yang, include Assistant Coach Scott Garner, Captain Michael Benson, Chief Pilot Joshua Suarez, First Officer Tsz Him Yeung, Treasurer Hirotsugu Funatsu, Safety Officer Daniel Byrnes, Public Relations Officer Patrick MacKinlay and Secretary Steven Remingten Ten.

Additional team members include Ethan Borjas, Nicholas Carbone, Thomas Epperson, Yingzhou Gu, Saiful Jihad, Mlouke Kharbouch, Michal Macutkiewicz, Scott Rudkin, Paul Sabatini, Andrew Swenson, Martina Szabo and Jason Vo.

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Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is the world’s largest, oldest and most comprehensive institution specializing in aviation, aerospace, engineering and related degree programs. A fully accredited university, Embry-Riddle is also a major research center, seeking solutions to real-world problems in partnership with the aerospace industry, other universities and government agencies. A nonprofit, independent institution, Embry-Riddle offers more than 100 associate, baccalaureate, master’s and Ph.D. degree programs in its colleges of Arts & Sciences, Aviation, Business, Engineering and Security & Intelligence. The university educates students at residential campuses in Daytona Beach, Fla., and Prescott, Ariz., through its Worldwide Campus with more than 135 locations in the United States, Europe and Asia, and through online programs. For more information, visit erau.edu, follow us on Twitter (@EmbryRiddle) and facebook.com/EmbryRiddleUniversity, and find expert videos at YouTube.com/EmbryRiddleUniv.