Flying Buckeyes rise at national collegiate competition

The flight team's N510SU flying
Ohio State Flight Team competes using Cessna 150s N510SU and N500SU

The Ohio State University Flight Team soared to a top performance at the 2023 National Intercollegiate Flying Association (NIFA) Safety and Flight Evaluation Conference (SAFECON) held May 8 – 13 in Oshkosh, WI. Buckeye achievements in the national collegiate flight competition included earning third place in flying events and fifth place overall, among twenty-eight teams.

“This was the best performance in 15 years,” said Head Coach John Ginley.

SAFECON is recognized as the pre-eminent competition that tests student pilots in a variety of flight and ground events. Overall champion was Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – Prescott, followed by University of North Dakota in second place. Additional Ohio State accomplishments were first place in Computer Accuracy (Mike Sterling), second place in Crew Resource Management / Line Oriented Flight Training (Mike Sterling and Dominic Parenti), second place in Traditional Navigation (Dominic Parenti and Noah Pattan) and third place in Power-off Landing (Chris Du), as well as other awards. Click here for full results.

This year’s success reflects the Buckeyes’ growth, rising from seventh place overall in the 2022 national competition. Coaches and students from all levels devoted significant time to training and sharing knowledge throughout the past academic year, culminating in honored performances at both regional and national competitions.

Ohio State Flight Team at the NIFA SAFECON 2023 awards banquet
Ohio State Flight Team at the NIFA SAFECON 2023 awards banquet

“Our flying Buckeyes have achieved success through dedicated practice and discipline,” said Brandon Mann, team advisor and director of the university’s Flight Education program. “They have demonstrated their skills in the air and on the ground, and I’m pleased to congratulate the team and coaches!”

For the first time in the event’s long history, SAFECON was held at famed Wittman Regional Airport (KOSH). Participants enjoyed friendly competition, sponsor booths, recruitment events and networking with hundreds of peers and industry members.

“Participation in NIFA SAFECON is an invaluable opportunity for our students to perform, compete and network well beyond the classroom,” commented Ginley. “They are crafting their skills as pilots to be the best of the best. This exposure and experience positions them to launch into their professional careers. In many cases, competitors are people with whom they will one day share the cockpit.”

Ohio State Flight Team Co-Captain Mike Sterling, aviation major, shared the impact SAFECON has on students. “The SAFECON competition contains the best collegiate aviation programs in the entire country,” he said. “The competition allows for pilots to demonstrate their skills inside and outside of the cockpit, but, more importantly, allows for pilots to meet other pilots and to build relationships that will last forever.”

Aviation major and Co-Captain Dominic Parenti provided insight to the team’s success. “Our results in SAFECON 2023 really speak volumes about the dedication of this team, and all of the hard work put in this year,” he said. “But what you don't see is all of the hours of practice which led to these results…That's the Ohio State difference. It's the sacrifice, commitment and love for the team shared by all of us which leads to our success.”

Another contributing factor central to the team’s performance was the involvement of volunteer alumni coaches, Ginley said, along with backing from donors. “Our team’s success wouldn’t be possible without the support of our alumni and donors whose contributions make what we do possible.”

The team has nearly reached their fundraising goal to offset the cost of competition and aircraft maintenance. Their Buckeye Funder campaign is open for donations through May 19.

The Ohio State Flight Team will next compete in autumn 2023 at the NIFA regionals.


Media contact: Holly Henley, communications specialist,

A total of 15 competitors and 10 coaches comprised the 2023 Ohio State Flight Team
A total of 15 students from a variety of majors and 10 coaches comprised the 2023 Ohio State Flight Team. Roster:
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