The War Eagle Flying Team has qualified for the national competition. SAFECON, the safety and flight evaluation conference, is an opportunity for collegiate flying teams around the country to test their skills against one another and network.
SAFECON is hosted by the National Intercollegiate Flying Association and will be held in Columbus, Ohio, this year May 9–14.
Aside from the regional competition, nationals is the War Eagle Flying Team’s primary goal each year. A flying team can only compete in SAFECON if it placed in the top 3 at regionals.
“We practice year-round,” said Spencer Dulac, War Eagle Flying Team treasurer. “This past regionals we placed third overall and second in flying and second in ground events.”
Some teams have their own planes that they take to competitions, but Dulac said the War Eagle Flying Team uses only University planes.
“We are given flight time based on how much work we do, like washing and cleaning,” Dulac said. “So for nationals, we saved up almost 90 hours to be able to go.”
SAFECON tests teams on different events such as landing, safety, ground work, flight planning and of course, flying.
Hampton McDonald, junior in business and safety officer for the team, said everyone has worked hard this year on their field work.
“Historically we are stronger in flying than we have been in the field,” McDonald said. “We have been putting sweat and tears into getting the field part better.”
Davis Sander, sophomore in professional flight management, will compete in both landing events at nationals.
“I do landing practice every Sunday to try and get as close as possible to the target,” Sander said. “You have to be within 20 feet of the target to be competitive.”
Landing events are one of the most difficult events to compete in, according to Sander, because the judges are extremely particular about approach, pattern and the actual landing.
“If you fly too small, or too fast or if you fly in too big of a pattern you can get points off,” Sander said.
Dulac will pilot for the landing events and will also compete in “message drop”: an event that forces teams to drop an object on a target from the air. He said he feels the War Eagle Flying Team isn’t as strong as other teams in certain ground events because Auburn is not an aviation school.
“We will compete with 20 other schools in the nation,” Dulac said. “But basically it shows we are a good program that we are even going.”
Sander said Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is the War Eagle Flying Team’s biggest rival.
“We kind of butt heads with them because each regional competition we are head-to-head with them in scores,” Sander said.
Auburn usually places well at nationals every year except last SAFECON. However, last year, the team won top pilot and was awarded top safety.
This article appeared in The Plainsman. You can read the original story HERE.