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Safety and Flight Evaluation Conference

Aviation competition leads to lifelong friendships

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LORRIE CECIL/THISWEEKNEWS
Judges, including Patti Garvin (far right) of Colorado Springs, watch as the U.S. Air Force Academy's plane competes in the short field landing event at the National Intercollegiate Flying Association SAFECON 2014 at the Ohio State University Airport May 14. Twenty-seven schools from throughout the country competed in a variety of aviation exercises both in simulators and in planes. In the short field landing event, the pilot flies a normal traffic pattern and tries to land on or as close as possible to a target line.
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The weather wasn't very friendly to this year's SAFECON, the competition for college aviation programs held last week at the Ohio State University Airport.

But that's OK, according to Jonathan Denison, a graduate student who works at Don Scott Field and is again president this year of both the National Intercollegiate Flying Association and its Safety and Flight Evaluation Conference (SAFECON).

Even if the pilots and other students in aviation programs from an array of colleges and universities didn't get in as many flight-related events as they had hoped, they got to be friendly with one another.

That's one of the main points and purposes of SAFECON, according to Denison.

"In my mind, there are two main takeaways these students get from competing," he said.

"One of these is the obvious one. These students are holding themselves to a standard higher than the FAA.

"They're really building skills for the future in flight," Denison said.

"The second one is the networking.

"There are several former competitors who have lifelong friendships from SAFECON."

This time around, 27 teams descended upon the OSU Airport for SAFECON, down from 29 at last year's event.

These teams earned the right to be at the conference through competitions held in a dozen different regions of the country, Denison said. The top three finishers from each of these was eligible for SAFECON, but some were unable to participate because of various factors, including in some cases final exams and lack of funding in others, he said.

In addition to Ohio State, this year's teams represented:

Auburn University; Central Texas College; Colorado Northwestern Community College; Delaware State University; Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University of Prescott, Ariz.; Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University of Daytona, Fla.; Farmingdale State College; Florida Institute of Technology;

Kansas State University-Salina; Kent State University; LeTourneau University; Lewis University; Liberty University; Minnesota State University-Mankato; Mount San Antonio College; Ohio University; San Jose State University; Southeastern Oklahoma State University; Southern Illinois University;

Texas State Technical College; University of Illinois; University of Nebraska-Omaha; University of North Dakota; U.S. Air Force Academy; Western Michigan University; and Westminster College.

When the weather cooperated last week, Denison said the student teams participated in competitions that include precision landings and landing a plane without power, using air speed and altitude to manage the touch-down.

"There is a lot of pride that the students take in that because it is so scrutinized and so easy to score," Denison said.

A navigation event required students to plan and execute a precise flight, including fuel-burning calculations.

They were scored based on the accuracy of their flight, including reaching checkpoints at specific times within the overall flight, as measured by onboard global positioning system units, according to Denison.

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