Pam Harasyn / Lantern reporter
The Ohio State University Airport will host the national meet of the National Intercollegiate Flying Association’s Safety and Flight Evaluation Conference competition this spring, and the OSU flight team, fresh off a first-place finish at regionals in October, is hard at work preparing to take honors on their home turf.
“There’s a variety of different events that you compete in,” said former co-captain Bernie Eddy, who graduated from OSU last June with a bachelor’s degree in airport management and took additional classes to continue coaching the team. “It’s kind of like a track meet. You go through different events (and)score points.”
The nine-man competing team will attempt OSU’s first-ever win at the national level when OSU hosts the 2013 SAFECON competition from May 6-11 at the OSU Airport. The competition will welcome 30 teams from around the country, each with at least five team members. Last year, OSU’s team finished fifth at the 2012 SAFECON at Kansas State in Salina, Kan.
Competitions feature events in either flying or ground categories. Some events include flight simulation, a detailed prep test known as preflight, E6B aviation calculations and conversions, aircraft recognition, precision landings, navigation and message drop.
Flying events award double points and all events have specific criteria for awarding points and penalties.
Members of OSU’s team took home first, third and fourth place Top Pilot awards at the regional event, as well as first, second and third place in preflight events.
Co-captain Alex Mulac, a third-year in aviation, said members usually have a few events in which they are strongest, but everyone is always practicing and expanding their talents.
“We have a very well-balanced team,” Mulac said. “No one carries everyone else.”
Mulac specializes in the preflight event in which a competitor must inspect the entire plane in no more than 15 minutes for something the judges have broken or altered. He said it trains future pilots to pay attention to detail.
“(It can be) anywhere between 60 to 70 different locations (they have to check for alterations),” Mulac said. “That’s anything from loosening a single screw, removing the microphone, they can also do stuff like remove inspection panels in the aircraft and actually rewire some of the controls.”
Justin Abrams, a second-year in aviation, said there is a pilot and co-pilot for all flying events but landing events are individual. He said team members have their Federal Aviation Administration certificates and are fully-licensed private pilots.
“Everyone is fully licensed for basically that kind of small plane,” Abrams said. “There’s of course power limits and things like that … but if you can fly in these events then you can legally fly people.”
Abrams’ favorite event is the Simulated Comprehensive Aircraft Navigation. He said it is another valuable event in training future pilots as it is very fact-driven and competitors must be knowledgeable of nearly all aviation rules and regulations.
“It’s the most knowledge-directed one,” Abrams said. “You’re pretty much given the overview of the flight, where you’re going to be flying, information on the plane, as well as personal information for the pilot … It’s making sure everything and everyone on the flight is legal.”
The OSU flight team spends its Saturdays at the OSU Airport, preparing for the upcoming national competition. The team owns one plane purchased by the university and one purchased by alumni. The team receives a small budget from the university but most of its funding comes from alumni.
“We have great alumni that are very willing to give back to the team,” Abrams said. “They were on the team when they were here and it helped them so much in their career that they want to give back.”
The 2013 SAFECON national competition will take place at the OSU Airport located at 2160 W. Case Rd. The event is free to spectators.