Flight team performs with flying colors

Dan Stroble

The Kent State Precision Flight Team is pleased.

Not just about placing 14th in the 2006 National Intercollegiate Flying Association’s Safety and Flight Evaluation Conference, but about the fact that it was the first time the team had made it to the competition in 19 years.

“I just thought it was awesome, especially for the older guys,” said sophomore aeronautics major Alan Konopka.

“This is their last hurrah,” said senior aeronautics major Mike Bertram.

The competition, which was held at Ohio State May 8 to 13, included 28 teams. More than 400 pilots took part in flight and ground events, including pre-flight inspection, flight computer accuracy, navigation cross-country and precision landings. Knowledge of federal regulations, aircraft/plane aerodynamics and performance and aeronautical charts were tested in a written exam, according to a press release.

“To be able to stay focused and compete was a very good thing,” adviser Rick Mangrum said.

Mangrum said the team overcame bad weather, which shortened three of the events, and the stress of finals week to win the safety award at the regional competition.

“For any of the flying events, safety is a big concern,” Konopka said.

The Precision Flight Team is composed of 17 members led by Mangrum and six other captains, coaches and advisors. One member, David Lochner, took seventh place in the power-off landing competition.

To make it to the competition, teams had to earn first, second or third place in their respective regional championships. Kent State took second at the National Intercollegiate Flying Association’s Region III tournament, held at Western Michigan Oct. 11 to 15.

Mangrum said the region is the most competitive in the country. The regional first-place team from Western Michigan is often ranked in the top five in the country. Nationwide, more than 80 of the 200 schools in the association made it to the regional championships.

Besides testing their skills, participants have the opportunity to talk to aeronautics companies at the national competition.

“You really get to network yourself. All the industry professionals are there,” Bertram said.

Both students said they were unsure of where they will go after college, partly due to the instability of the industry.

Mangrum is optimistic for next year.

“We had a good mix of seniors and underclassmen,” he said. “This year’s team has gotten some experience going to nationals.”

Contact general assignment reporter Dan Stroble at [email protected].