KSU flight team begins competition in Columbus

Leslie Arntz

Junior flight technician major Kara Beth Armstrong works at landings during the flight team’s last practice before competition. KATIE ROUPE | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: John Proppe

“Dead on!”

“It was 15.”

“No, it was closer than that.”

Arms shot out, pointing to the spots on the runway where members of the Kent State Precision Flight Team estimated Mike Halliday made contact during landing practice.

Team members met Saturday morning for a final practice before SAFECON, the annual Region III Safety and Flight Evaluation Conference.

For landing events, pilots must touch down the plane and keep it firmly on the ground within a 300-foot-long box, marked on the runway with flour. A line 100 feet in is the target. The closer, the better.

Halliday, a senior flight technology major, received a score of 10, meaning he was 10 feet away from the target line. It was the best score of the practice.

The landing competition is “pretty complicated, pretty difficult,” said Tim Palcho, head coach of the team. “But they’ve been doing this long enough. They can do this.”

Halliday and about 19 others begin a week-long competition today in Columbus, participating in ground and flying events against seven other schools from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and West Virginia.

The team needs a second-place regional ranking to move to the national competition.

“We expect to place highly,” said team faculty adviser Richard Mangrum. “This team has worked very hard. They have a great work ethic. They’re young though. We lost a lot of seniors … If we don’t do well this year, we can build on this.”

Last year, the team placed 14th among more than 25 teams from across the country.

Palcho said the team members have been practicing every day.

“It’s like a baseball or basketball team,” said Kyle Virgei, junior flight technology major. “Everyone has their parts. We practice together, we work hard.”

Palcho said the team has always done well in landing and flight competitions. Though the team is young, he said he has seen it excel and he hopes students can perform as well as they did practicing Saturday morning or better.

“Though we did have seniors graduate, it’s not like we’ve lost the whole team,” said Kara Beth Armstrong, junior flight technology major. “I definitely think we can (do as well as last year).”

Armstrong will participate in navigation and landing events and will pilot for the message drop competition.

Students fly 200 feet above the ground and drop a 2.5 ounce “message,” a container with a streamer attached, at two targets at each end of the runway. The closest drop with the lowest score wins.

“One day, you can be nine feet off. The next day it can be 130 feet,” said Jason Bond, senior flight technology major. “(Sometimes) it’s kind of luck.”

Previously, the competition was called the “bomb drop.” Students kept catching themselves and replacing “bomb” with “message.”

“People don’t like to hear the word ‘bomb’ anymore,” Mangrum said.

“Nine-eleven changed everything. It really changed a lot of terms in aviation.”

Other areas of competition include aircraft recognition tests where students are shown an aircraft for three seconds and have 15 seconds to select the manufacturer, model and name, and preflight inspections.

For the inspections, aircrafts are “bugged” with at least 30 discrepancies or errors. “It’s fun to go in and find as many mistakes as you can,” team president Mike Fox said.

Contestants must find as many as they can within 15 minutes.

“It’s fun getting to do something like this and be part of a team,” said Paul Wilhelm, freshman flight technology major. “The team has a common goal.”

Mike Bertram, senior aeronautical studies major, said it’s all about placing well and enjoying the company of teammates and others with the same interests.

“Most people get nervous (at competitions),” he said. “But we’ve having fun.”

Most team members agreed that the flying competitions were the most fun.

“You don’t really get to hang out the window of an airplane and chuck things at the ground every day,” Bond said.

Contact College of Technology reporter Leslie Arntz at [email protected].