Soaring to the top: UNO flight team wins regional competition

Photo courtesy Flying Mavs

Ethan Free

When the UNO flight team, the Flying Mavs, sat down at the awards banquet for the National Intercollegiate Flying Association’s SAFECON 2017 Regional Competition on Oct. 20, it was with an air of apprehension.

“We could be in last place, (or) we could be smoking everybody,” said pilot Tate Beller.

At flying competitions, results are not announced until the awards banquet at the end of the week.

“It’s awful,” said pilot Nick Scholtz. “The amount of anxiety and tension you build throughout the week is pretty crazy.”

When the results were announced at the banquet, it was revealed that the Flying Mavs had, in fact, been smoking everybody.

The Flying Mavs took home first place, scoring 669 points overall. The next highest score was 426 points. Coach Ryan Guthridge called the team the best that UNO has ever fielded with a depth that he had never seen before. The Flying Mavs are considered a departmental organization by the university. Unlike the basketball and hockey teams, it’s not a sport, so they don’t get as much official support from the university. Despite the challenges, the team has put in the work to become something amazing.

“We’re basically considered more like a club,” said Scholtz. “We do this all on our own, just because we love flying. We love the atmosphere, we love building that camaraderie with people that share the same passion.”

Last year, the Flying Mavs took 15th place in nationals. Five members of that team returned this year, as well as a further 10 recruits, rounding the team out to 15 members strong.

Scholtz credits the team’s success to those experienced pilots. “We had a lot of strong individuals… that had really gotten the groove of flight team down.”

Flight competitions feature two segments: five ground events and four flight events. Placement scores each event. First place in ground events is worth 20 points, second is worth 19, and so on, down to 20th place; flight events are worth double points. UNO took home first, second and third place in several events, winning 257 points in ground events and 412 points in flight events.

“Our flight events were crazy,” said Scholtz.

The competition also gave awards to the top five pilots who scored the most individual points. UNO’s Tate Beller won Top Pilot, as well as three other Flying Mavs in the top five.

The flight events test everything from navigation, to landing, to messenger drops. The ground events measure a pilot’s attention to detail and technical knowledge, as well as skill in a flight simulator.

One of Scholtz’s favorite events is Aircraft Recognition. Pilots are given three seconds to look at a picture of a plane, then a multiple- choice test to identify the plane.

“Where they really get you is when they don’t give you a full picture of a plane,” said Scholtz. “I enjoy it because I like to put on music and then I can just look at planes.”

With the talent, dedication and depth present in this year’s team, the win means a bright, promising future for the Flying Mavs.