Five universities flew in around 100 students and coaches to the Danville area to compete in the National Intercollegiate Flying Association’s (NIFA) Regional Flight Competition at Danville’s Regional Airport on Friday. This year, Averett won the bid to host the competition, which was great news for the local economy, including restaurants, hotels and airplane fuel usage.
“We’re here to enhance the enthusiasm in aviation, professionalism and comradery of collegiate students,” chief judge Ernie Rogers said. “We want to prepare them for a career in aeronautics.”
Rogers said the competition is similar to a track meet with 11 different events. The winners of each event put all the points together to get an overall winner. There are four flying events, six academic events and a simulator.
“Contestants have to do all of those events,” Rogers said. “We pick the winners from that.”
During the competition on Friday the aviation students performed landing events. This involved the planes taking off, landing and taking off again at the airport as part of the competition. Averett had 17 students compete.
NIFA President Richard Smith, with Net Jets, also visited the airport.
“This year we were fortunate enough to win the bid and host,” Averett’s chief flight instructor Travis Williams said. “It’s a huge honor to showcase our facilities and our program. Not only that, we get to showcase the City of Danville and the Danville Regional Airport.”
The winner and the second place winner from the regional competition advanced to the national competition. Last year, nationals were held at Ohio State University. The national competition for this year is planned to be held at Kansas State University.
“This competition has helped me tremendously,” Averett junior Tyler Henley said. “I started it because it was extra practice and gave me a little more time to be involved with aviation. It just grew into a real passion of mine.”
Henley is a flight student at Averett and stated that participating in this competition has helped him sharpen his skills. It covers all aspects involved with studying aviation.
“In this competition you need concentration, focus and an overall understanding of the various landings and different things that we’re doing out here,” Henley said. “We’re always learning our skills. We’ll be learning that until we no longer fly.”
Henley first got into flying when he used to play baseball as a kid. When he’d be in the outfield, he would look up and see planes flying overhead, which is what sparked his interest in flying.
He said that he has learned how to work with other airplanes in the area and with moving aircraft and organizing the event.
“It’s interesting to see new faces on the other teams,” Henley said. “We get to know these people and we keep up with them. They’re our friends and we make friendships that will last the rest of our life. It’s really cool to meet the new people and get their take on how their program is doing and pass along what we’ve been told about their program from other people. It’s kind of like a big family out here in aviation even though we are all competitors.”