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U.S. Naval Academy Flight Team Advances to National Competition

Posted on: October 24, 2012 08:00 EDT by MIDN 1/C Michael Thorsen

The U.S. Naval Academy Flight Team placed second in the National Intercollegiate Flying Association's regional Safety and Flight Evaluation Conference Oct. 13 in Elizabeth City, N.C.

The Naval Academy team scored high enough to secure an invitation to the national competition in May 2013 at Ohio State University.

"Our goal was to lay a solid foundation for the team to continue to grow for future classes," said Midshipman 1st Class Sean Freitas. "The fact that we were able to compete at such a high level really exemplifies where this team is headed in the years to come."

The Naval Academy was one of seven teams competing during the three-day event, held at Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City. The team is currently comprised of 11 midshipmen, and team captain Midshipman 1st Class Daniel McClellan hopes to grow the team to 20-25 midshipmen with approximately 15 who will represent Navy at nationals.

The competition consisted of various events, both in the air and on the ground. Midshipmen 1st Class Michael Reindl and Kyle Bunker took first and third place, respectively, in the power off landing event. Bunker also placed second in the short field landing event, while Midshipman 1st Class Michael Thorsen took third place in the simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation event. All the mids flew the Cessna 172.

"The competition was some of the most fun I've had while at the academy," said Midshipman 1st Class Kyle Bunker. "Being able to test my skills as a pilot against my teammates and students from other colleges, as well as making new friends, was a great experience."

The Flight Team also won the Regional Safety Award which is given to the team who has demonstrated safe flying and ground operations and has implemented a rigorous safety program for its pilots.

"Flight competitions are a unique challenge - there are no fail-safes or veteran back-up pilots waiting to take over if something goes wrong. It was purely up to the midshipmen and students to safely execute a complex and challenging mission," said Midshipman 3rd Class Jonathan Jackson. "That level of responsibility bestowed upon young men and women is hard to find anywhere else and is exactly the type of activity that will greatly enhance our skill-set as officers."

Additionally, retired Rear Adm. Robert Nutwell (USNA 1966), one of three team coaches, won the Regional Coach of the Year Award.

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