Kent State hosts annual flight competition


Daniel W Enders

Senior aeronautics major Conrad Pflasterer goes over flight controls during on October 9. Kent State is hosting a flight competition throughout the week, where flight students from Kent and other colleges in the area will show off their flight and landing skills at the Kent State Airport. Photo by Daniel Enders.

Rob Rompala

Kent State is currently in the running for an annual five-school flight competition, concluding with an awards banquet at 5 p.m. Saturday in the Student Center Ballroom.

This year Kent State is competing against the Ohio State University, Western Michigan University, the University of Cincinnati and Ohio University for a spot in the national collegiate flight competition.

Kent State’s Aeronautics Division and Precision Flight Team are the official hosts of the 2012 National Intercollegiate Flying Association (NIFA) Region III Safety and Flight Evaluation Conference (SAFECON). Kent placed first the last time they hosted this event in 2007.

Members of each team will have the chance to present their flying and landing skills at the Kent State University Airport through a series of competitive events.

Each team is judged based on nine total events, consisting of four flying events and five ground events.

“The students are judged on their ability to safely operate the aircraft and land it,” said Richard Mangrum, flight team advisor at Kent State. “The goal is to rate their performance level with an emphasis on safe operation of an aircraft.”

The event began Oct. 8 with an opening ceremony for the flight teams and judges, followed by two days of precision navigation events and the ground events.

The competition continues today with landing events scheduled all day at the airport.

“This event requires a pilot to land the plane in between a six-inch wide line, which takes a lot of skill and is the most practiced event,” said Calvin Carstensen, one of Kent’s coaches and a competition judge.

Competitions conclude Friday with a message drop and pre-flight events starting around noon at the airport.

The message drop requires a pilot to drop an object accurately on a target from 200 feet above the ground while flying about 90 mph.

The pre-flight event requires students to find 30 things wrong with a “bugged” plane. They are given a flashlight and 15 minutes to inspect the plane for hazards.

“Another event in pre-flight involves competitors to look at any part of a plane for only three seconds, and they then have to write down all the information about that plane,” Carstensen said. “It’s amazing to see.”

Carstensen said he is passionate about aviation and loves working with these students. “These guys are like my grandchildren.”

Carstensen said the team puts forth commitment and hard work toward their major. “These students come into flight training and they don’t have a plan B,” Carstensen said. “There’s no way out as far as they’re concerned.”

Conrad Pflasterer is one of the co-captains of Kent’s flight team. As a co-captain, he said it’s all about organization. He has to organize his team and get them ready for the events.

Pflasterer said he has high expectations for his pilots. “Our team is going to put forth our best effort,” Pflasterer said. “I am very confident that we have a good chance to make it to nationals.”

The top three schools will move on to nationals in the spring. Winners will be announced at the banquet.

“The action is at the airport, whether it’s in the air or on the ground, it’s exciting,” Carstensen said.

Contact Rob Rompala at [email protected].