War Eagle Flying Team soaring to national championships

Published: April 19, 2019
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Auburn University’s War Eagle Flying Team will take off to the University of Wisconsin in May for SAFECON 2019, the national championship of collegiate aviation. This is the fourth consecutive year Auburn’s team has earned a chance to compete for the title of national champions.

Auburn’s competition flight team consists of more than 50 pilots and aviation enthusiasts with a common goal of growth and ambassadorship. Sixteen members of the team guided Auburn to second place at the National Intercollegiate Flying Association Region IX Safety and Flight conference championships last fall, earning Auburn its best finish in 36 years and a spot in the upcoming national competition.

“This season we have a fantastic group of teammates who are extremely dedicated and committed to making history,” said Adam Shaffer, president of the team. The team had many first place finishes including Top Pilot, Top Female Pilot and Highest Scoring Contestant.

The team competes annually in a regional competition against six other schools. In order to receive an invitation to the national championships, the team must place in the top three during regionals.

“The competition itself is very intense, with a lot of pressure and nerves to perform at the highest level. The popularity of the event has increased tenfold, and was actually televised last year through an internet stream,” Shaffer said.

The team and its members are scored against other teams in various precision flight and ground activities.

“An analogy I like to use is that NIFA is much like the NCAA of flying, with Region IX being our ‘conference’ like Auburn is in the Southeastern Conference,” Shaffer said.

The competitions themselves are a week long, with each day devoted to a different event. Teams compete in two different categories of events, flight events and ground events. Flight events include navigating a single-engine plane through a flight course, and ground events consist of an aircraft preflight inspection where an aircraft is bugged with at least 30 discrepancies that would make a plane unable to fly, and contestants are given 15 minutes to find as many discrepancies as possible.

Because there are events that don’t involve flying, students who are interested in joining the team don’t need to have flight or aeronautical experience.

“This is actually one of my favorite parts about the flight team,” said Shaffer. “Ground events do not directly involve flying so you do not currently have to be a pilot to compete or help the team during competition.”

The national competition will take place May 13-18 and fans can follow along on the War Eagle Flying Team’s Facebook page.

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn's commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact. Auburn's mission to educate, discover and collaborate drives its expanding impact on the world.