Golden Eagles Win 14th NIFA SAFECON National Championship

The Golden Eagles Flight Team at NIFA SAFECON
The Golden Eagles Flight Team at Embry-Riddle’s Prescott Campus won the NIFA SAFECON national championship this month for the second consecutive year, marking the team’s 14th top finish in campus history. (Photo: Parker Northrup)

For the 14th time in campus history and for the second consecutive year, the Golden Eagles Flight Team at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Prescott Campus took home the title last week at the NIFA SAFECON national championship. 

“Coaching the Golden Eagles Flight Team is my dream job,” said Head Coach Shaun Shephard, who led the team in both of its last two national title bids. “I get to coach and teach the best of the best.”

Earlier in the spring semester, the team also competed in the NIFA SAFECON regional flight competition, winning its 37th championship. That event was part of a “sprint,” Shephard said, noting that the team was away from campus competing for six of the 20 weeks leading up to nationals and had to balance those external events with ongoing training exercises and their usual coursework.

Still, the team excelled, producing plenty of standout performances:

  • In his first year on the team, Rasheed Adamu won an individual national championship in Aircraft Recognition. “Unheard of,” Shephard said. 
  • Jamie Gallagher earned a perfect score in Computer Accuracy.
  • Camden Dellar won the Preflight event, marking the first time the Golden Eagles have won in that category.
  • And Hayden Morse achieved one of the most difficult feats of the competition: He competed in two separate events requiring entirely different skillsets — Short Field Landings and Power-Off Landings — and he won them both. 

“Every day, I ask the team to be golden, be the best at what you do every day, every time and have no regrets,” Shephard said. “We won this championship as a T.E.A.M.: Together Everyone Achieves More. I could not be any happier and am still speechless.”

Competing in the event also helps graduates kickstart their careers, according to outgoing Team Captain Doug Niemela.

“I landed my first airline job thanks in large part to my experiences with the Golden Eagles,” he said. “It is a highly competitive, team-oriented organization that allows for tremendous personal growth in technical as well as leadership skills. All of our teammates will go on to find future success in the workplace because this is an organization where a smiling face and hard work ethic will take you far.” 

This was also the first in-person NIFA SAFECON event since 2019. 

“We have an incredibly dedicated bunch of young aviators who understand that consistent dedication throughout the year is necessary to compete at this high level,” said Parker Northrup, Flight Department chair. “Embry-Riddle’s high standards and quality of flight training, well recognized in the industry, provide underlying support, but make no mistake: The team, through its systematic approach and thorough training, should be given full credit. Their dedication to, preparation for and study prior to competition is among the keenest I’ve ever seen in my three decades in military and civilian flight education programs.”

The 34-member Golden Eagles beat out 27 other university teams, comprised of nearly 500 students from across the country, to win the first-place title, participating in 12 events that tested their aviation knowledge and skills. In total, Embry-Riddle placed in 18 events, including eight No. 1 finishes.

Looking ahead to next year’s competition, Shephard added, “The preparation has already begun. This time, the target on our team’s back is even bigger.”

A full list of the events in which Embry-Riddle placed is listed as follows:

National Championship

  • No. 1. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University — Prescott Campus

Flight Events Championship

  • No. 1. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University — Prescott Campus

Ground Events Championship

  • No. 2. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University — Prescott Campus

Judges Trophy

  • No. 2. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University — Prescott Campus

Aircraft Preflight Inspection

  • No. 1. Camden Deller: Embry-Riddle 

Aircraft Recognition

  • No. 1. Rasheed Adamu: Embry-Riddle 

Computer Accuracy

  • No. 1. Jamie Gallagher: Embry-Riddle 

American Airlines Safety Award 

  • No. 2. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University — Prescott Campus

Top Pilot

  • No. 2. Hayden Morse: Embry-Riddle 

Top Scoring Participant 

  • No. 2. Hayden Morse: Embry Riddle

Regional Top Pilot

  • Region 2: Douglas Niemela: Embry-Riddle
  • Region 8: Janes Hanover: Embry-Riddle

Outstanding Team Member

  • No. 2. Gabriel Witt: Embry-Riddle

Certified Flight Instructor

  • No. 2. Anna Scott: Embry-Riddle

Instrument Simulated Flight

  • No. 2. Christopher Shields: Embry-Riddle

Power Off Landing

  • No. 1. Hayden Morse: Embry-Riddle

Short Field Landing

  • No. 1. Hayden Morris: Embry-Riddle

Simulated Comprehensive Aircraft Navigation

  • No. 3. Matthew Arnovick: Embry-Riddle

Unlimited Navigation

  • No. 1. Gabriel Witt and George Fiscu: Embry-Riddle

Posted In: Aviation