Kent State University Precision Flight Team Reaches New Heights at 2024 NIFA SAFECON

The Kent State University Precision Flight Team finished 11th overall out of 32 teams at this year’s NIFA SAFECON. The competition was hosted by the city of Janesville, WI at the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport (JVL), May 13 – 18. The Kent State University Precision Flight Team was away at the competition May 6 – 19. All aircraft and vehicles returned safely.

What is NIFA?

Founded by young aviators after World War 1, the National Intercollegiate Flying Association (NIFA) exists today as a forum for collegiate aviators to expand their studies and further their careers by participating in competitive and non-competitive events, networking with industry and contemporaries, and applying themselves to go above-and-beyond their ordinary curriculum.

Watch “What is NIFA SAFECON” on Flying Magazine’s YouTube channel.

During the annual Safety and Flight Evaluation Conference (SAFECON), the top NIFA member teams in the country compete in ground-based and flight events that test their knowledge and skills in aircraft safety, recognition, team cohesion, and different modes of navigation. Thirty-two teams competed this year, up from 28 in 2023. Kent State University sent its 20-member team with four single-engine planes: one Cessna-150, one Cessna-152, and two Cessna-172Ss.

Precision Flight Team Soars Higher Than Ever with New Members

Precision Flight Team Women

The Precision Flight Team included seven women, which is almost double the number of ladies on past teams (4) and was more than any other team at the competition. This was also a relatively young team, with only two Certified Flight Instructors (CFIs), six Private Pilots, and six Student Pilots. Loren Swisher was recognized by the team as its Outstanding Team Member.

Kent State placed 12th for the Judges Trophy with 2960 points, the highest points KSU has ever earned, and was very similar to last year’s points (2943). This honor does not bestow any trophy or plaque but does indicate how well the team does overall, regardless of points scored. It considers the ranking of all team members in all events.

precision flight team members
Day 1 Computer Accuracy Team: Connor Daniel, Lucy Altwies, Ava Ipolito, Takashi Kunu, Daniel Aurand

Kent State placed higher in the Aircraft Preflight event than it has ever placed at the National SAFECON by a wide margin. Caleb was one discrepancy/squawk away from earning first place. Next highest KSU placement was 5th place in 2021, but that was a virtual competition due to the COVID pandemic. The next closest KSU in-person was 12th place, so great job Caleb!

precision flight team members
Day 1 Aircraft Recognition Team: Linus Vazquez, Gavin Barzan, Kasen King, George Ludwiczak, Sam Maxwell, Freddie Stamper

Frederick Stamper scored 9th Place in Aircraft recognition, which is the highest KSU placement in this event at the National SAFECON on record!

Kent State placed 4th in the Crew Resource Management (CRM)/Line Oriented Flight Training (LOFT) event, the highest KSU has placed in the National SAFECON! Next closest was 7th place in 2015. Great job working together as a crew!

Day 1 SCAN Team
Day 1 SCAN Team: Gavin Chu, Andrew McKinley, Madeline Goussios, Sadie Martin, Caleb Seymour

The flight team tied for the highest Kent State has ever placed in the Instrumental Simulated Flight event. 2008 was the last time we placed 2nd in the event. Cole was less than 4 points from taking first place!

Cole Hebbard at NIFA SAFECON 2024

This was also the first year Kent State competed in Traditional Navigation, a non-GPS version of the Navigation event. It is the way the Navigation event was run in the 1990s and earlier.

Precision Flight Team Thanks Kent State Alumni Volunteers and Coaches

Kent State University had three Alumni volunteer Judges this year – Sarah Deal (Preflight), Victor (Vic) Petrovic (Preflight), and Maggie Prochaska [Giles] (E6B & SCAN). Thank you for volunteering your time/efforts/expenses for the Kent State University student competitors and all NIFA student competitors! We really appreciate your contribution!

Thank You to Tim Palcho, Head Coach; Brian Neff, Advisor; and all the Alumni Coaches who came to competition to help – Joey Conrad, Joe Culek, Sam Legarth, and Holly Csaszar. Also, Thank You to our Coaches who prepared the team for competition – Jason Lorenzon, Victoria Lorenzon, and Cameron Davis.

Precision Flight Team relaxes at 2024 NIFA SAFECON

“One thing that I love about NIFA/Flight Team is that all of the judges/volunteers do this out of the goodness of their hearts,” said Ben Satyshur, Aviation Safety Program Manager at the College of Aeronautics and Engineering. “The judges are airline pilots, mechanics, or other professionals in the aviation field, both working and retired…they take vacation time/days off, spending 1+ week of their own time (away from family), and spending their own money (hotels, food, travel, etc.) to put on the competition for the young competitors. We do it because most of us have competed once and know how good practice and competition is for their professional development. Plus, it is just FUN! We enjoy the camaraderie, the challenge, the sportsmanship, and just being around airplanes!”


Featured Results:


Kent State University Precision Flight Team

Team Awards:

SAFECON Championship – 11th Place

Flight Events – 11th Place

Ground Events – 8th Place


Individual Awards:

Loren Swisher – Outstanding Team Member


Ground Events:

students perform a preflight inspection of an aircraft

Aircraft Preflight Inspection

  • 2nd Place – Caleb Seymour
  • 7th Place – Jeff McCabe

Aircraft Recognition

  • 9th Place – Frederick Stamper


  • 4th Place – Caleb Seymour (Pilot Flying), Cole Hebbard (Pilot Monitoring)

Ground Trainer

  • 19th Place – Jeff McCabe

Instrument Simulated Flight

  • 2nd Place – Cole Hebbard


Flight Events:

student prepares an airplane for takeoff

Short Field Landing

  • 17th Place – George Ludwiczak

Top Scoring Contestant

  • 12th Place – Caleb Seymour

Traditional Navigation

  • 17th Place – Andrew McKinley (Pilot)/Takashi Kunu (Safety Observer)

Unlimited Navigation

  • 9th Place – Caleb Seymour (Pilot)/Frederick Stamper (Safety Observer)
  • 16th Place – Cole Hebbard (Pilot)/George Ludziczak (Safety Observer)


POSTED: Friday, May 31, 2024 10:29 AM
Updated: Friday, May 31, 2024 02:09 PM