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War Eagle Flying Team wins prestigious Loening Trophy at National SAFECON 2022

Published: May 24, 2022
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Auburn University’s War Eagle Flying Team brought home aviation’s top honors from the 2022 National Intercollegiate Flying Association, or NIFA, SAFECON competition earlier this month.

The War Eagle Flying Team is a student-run organization for Auburn flight students passionate about aviation. Each year, the team competes in NIFA’s SAFECON, a national competition for collegiate aviators. Teams and individuals are judged on academics, safety, professionalism and more, and this year, the War Eagle Flying Team took the top prize.

The Loening Trophy, collegiate aviation’s oldest and rarest award, was first awarded in 1929 by a judging panel that included aviation legends such as Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart. The award itself is named after Grover Loening, an aeronautical engineer who worked with the Wright Brothers.

Professional flight senior Blake Adkins said this major accomplishment shows the War Eagle Flying Team can place competitively among other nationally ranked teams.

“To me, the Loening Trophy not only represents the innovation and progress of Auburn Aviation over the past years, but it shows that we are truly a world-class program,” Adkins said. “It is humbling to know that I was a part of a team that brought this prestigious trophy home to Auburn University for the first time. All the students, professors and faculty work so hard every day, and this trophy shows that this work is being recognized around the aviation community.”

In addition to the Loening Trophy, the War Eagle Flying Team won the American Airlines Safety Award, Competition Safety Award and Collegiate Aviation Progress Award in the team category. Individually, team members were awarded numerous top-10 placements at the competition, which hosted more than 100 entries across all events.

Incoming War Eagle Flying Team President Christopher Hopkins said the team’s passion, dedication and the long hours spent preparing for the national competition not only won prestigious awards but makes everyone involved a better aviator.

“Our team's accomplishments this year is proof that hard work does pay off,” Hopkins said. “It takes everyone on the team working in collaboration with one another to make our success. The achievements this year are only the beginning. As Auburn aviators, the future is bright for this team and our program, and I am excited to see what we will achieve together.”

School of Aviation Director Jim Witte said the War Eagle Flying Team’s performance displays the skill, knowledge and attitude of future aviation leaders. The Loening Trophy, Witte said, highlights not only their flying expertise, but their academics, community involvement, comprehensive safety and professionalism.

“The Loening Trophy is the ‘Super Bowl’ of all collegiate aviation competitions,” Witte said. “Pride, respect and humility are all part of the award; Auburn students have maintained the standards of the Auburn Creed penned by George Petrie and have brought a point of pride, respect and humility to the Auburn Family.”

See the War Eagle Flying Team’s full list of awards below:

Team awards

  • The Loening Trophy
  • American Airlines Safety Award
  • Competition Safety Award
  • Collegiate Aviation Progress Award
  • Judges Trophy, 10th place
  • Ground Events Championship, 10th place
  • Flight Events Championship, ninth place


Individual awards

  • Men’s Achievement Award, second place, Eric Tivy
  • Women’s Achievement Award, third place, Maggie Hearn
  • Instrument Simulated Flight, fifth place, Riley Hoag
  • Message Drop, seventh place, Riley Hoag and Riley Colliau
  • Unlimited Navigation, seventh-place tie, Eric Tivy and Luke Russo
  • Unlimited Navigation, seventh-place tie, Thomas Bingham and Christopher Hopkins
  • Unlimited Navigation, ninth place, Ashley Baldwin and Maggie Hearn
  • Ground Trainer, eighth place, Riley Hoag
  • Simulated Comprehensive Aircraft Navigation, 17th place, Eric Tivy
  • Outstanding Team Member, Riley Colliau


For more information about the School of Aviation at Auburn University, visit here.

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, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation 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.

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