Kansas State Polytechnic Flight Team soars at nationals with several top ten individual finishes, places 13th overall

By Julee Cobb

Members of the Kansas State Polytechnic Flight Team who competed at the National Intercollegiate Flying Association SAFECON National Championship pose with their individual awards, from left: Christopher Pennington, Christopher Jansen, Matthew Katzke, Maddie Perry, Nicholas Terrapin, Jacob Mitchell, Caleb Strahm, Chris Messing, Brendan Borcherding, Brian Kimani, and Jason Rohlf.

The flight team on the Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus has landed several individual awards and an overall 13th place finish after competing at the National Intercollegiate Flying Association, or NIFA, Safety and Flight Evaluation Conference, or SAFECON, National Championship.

Held May 9-14 this year at Ohio State University, the annual competition brings together the top collegiate aviation teams from across the country to battle it out in a variety of tests both on the ground and in the air. Competing against 27 other colleges and universities made up of more than 250 aviators, the Kansas State Polytechnic Flight Team scored four Top 10 awards in individual events: first in message drop, third in certified flight instructor, third in instrument simulated flight and eighth in crew resource management/line oriented flight training. Additionally, the team placed 13th overall and senior Chris Messing won Regional Top Pilot.

“I am impressed by the dedication and perseverance of each member of the flight team to do their best during nationals and am inspired by the way in which they supported one another from practice to competition,” said Ben Jaffee, flight team faculty adviser and senior assistant chief flight instructor at Kansas State Polytechnic. “The flight team represented the university well and while many of them took home honors, they all improved their aviation knowledge and skills and got a chance to meet and network with the next generation of aviation professionals.”

In October 2016, the Kansas State Polytechnic Flight Team placed third in their region at NIFA SAFECON, which secured their place at nationals. The team will now reconvene when the fall semester begins and hold tryouts for the 12 open spots. Jaffee says it is not a requirement for students to be a professional pilot major in order to make the team.

“Any student enrolled in a four-year degree program is welcome to join the team – a passion for aviation and aircraft can go a long way on ground events and to compete in flight events, students need to hold at least a private pilot certificate.”

Along with competing annually, flight team members also use their club as way to give back to the community and to connect children with aviation. Throughout the year the team is a part of several events like the All-University Open House and Candy Canes and Airplanes. It also conducts two aviation camps for kids and one for high school students in the summer.

The Kansas State Polytechnic Flight Team’s individual events and placings at the 2017 NIFA SAFECON National Championship are as follows:

Nicholas Terrapin, junior, Alma, first in message drop, eighth in the crew resource management/line oriented flight training event, 45th in navigation, 75th in aircraft recognition, 104th in power-off landing, 105th in short field landing and 108th in simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation; Caleb Strahm, freshman, Sabetha, 35th in power-off landing, 38th in message drop, 39th in ground trainer, 45th in navigation, 79th in computer accuracy and 107th in short field landing; Brendan Borcherding, sophomore, Salina, 68th in computer accuracy, 93rd in message drop, 104th in simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation and 109th in power-off landing; Chris Messing, senior, Wichita, eighth in the crew resource management/line oriented flight training event, 14th in power-off landing, 25th in ground trainer, 33rd in the aircraft preflight inspection event, 55th in navigation, 70th in short field landing, 96th in aircraft recognition and 115th in simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation; and Maddie Perry, sophomore, Wichita, 38th in message drop and 55th in navigation.

Jacob Mitchell, junior, Foxfield, Colorado, third in the certified flight instructor event, 36th in the aircraft preflight inspection event, 64th in simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation, 65th in short field landing, 66th in navigation, 81st in computer accuracy and 93rd in message drop; Jason Rohlf, freshman, Tipton, Iowa, 37th in aircraft recognition; Brian Kimani, freshman, Middle River, Maryland, 69th in message drop; Christopher Pennington, senior, El Paso, Texas, first in message drop, 35th in aircraft recognition; Christopher Jansen, sophomore, The Woodlands, Texas, third in the instrument simulated flight event, 64th in computer accuracy, 102nd in aircraft recognition; and Matthew Katzke, junior, Waukesha, Wisconsin, 66th in navigation, 69th in message drop, 82nd in simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation and 97th in computer accuracy.

For more information on the flight team, including sponsorship, contact Jaffee at 785-826-2978 or bjaffee@k-state.edu.