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JU Flight Team shows strength at national competition

Jacksonville University Flight Team member Bill Luce earned the National Men’s Achievement Award at the recent National Intercollegiate Flying Association Safety and Evaluation Conference, while team coach Capt. Jeff Harrison won Coach of the Year honors. 

Luce was honored by NIFA for his academic accomplishments, aviation involvement and community service, while Harrison won for his inspiration and support in leading the JU Flight Team and exemplifying the high standards and goals of NIFA. 

This is the 11th year in a row the JU team has attended the National SAFECON event, held May 14-19 this year in Salina, Kan. The JU team was one of 29 invited to the national air meet after progressing through regional competitions that involved some 90 collegiate aviation programs around the country. Thus only about 30 percent of schools competing each year get the opportunity to attend nationals.

“The JU Team would like to express their heartfelt gratitude to all its supporters and sponsors and members of the JU Aviation Advisory Board,” said Dr. Juan Merkt, director of the JU Davis Aviation Center. “The continued success of the team would not be possible without their generous support.”

Overall, JU’s team placed 19th in the Judges Trophy. Individual team members also ranked top 20 in several events. Denis Ndregjoni captured 11th place in the IFR Simulated Flight and 12th place in the Certified Flight Instructor event. Denis also won the Outstanding Team Member Award. Bill Luce (drop master) and Derek Willis (pilot) earned 17th place in the Message Drop event.

Over the years, the JU Flight Team has accumulated outstanding team and individual achievements, including the Collegiate Aviation Progress Award (2007), the Loening Trophy (2008), first place in Certified Flight Instructor event (2009), the Candi Kubeck Award for Top Scoring Female (2010), and many other individual awards.

The team was led by advisors Prof. Jeff Harrison and Dr. Rhett Yates, along with team captain William Aultman. The 13 members who participated in the national competition included William Aultman, Chris Clarkson, Maria Figuerado, Katja Jourdan, Michael Korona, Bill Luce, Denis Ndregjoni, Daniel Pruitt, John Quartucio, Valentin Romero, Joseph Schmidt, Matthew Walden and Derek Willis.

Jacksonville University’s Davis Aviation Center in the Davis College of Business has been educating and training future professional pilots and aviation executives for more than 25 years. The university’s Aviation Management and Aviation Management & Flight Operations degree programs are accredited by the Aviation Accreditation Board International (AABI). JU is one of 36 universities in the nation selected by the FAA to educate future air traffic controllers under the Collegiate Training Initiative (CTI). Its students also benefit from a one-of-a-kind partnership with Aerosim Flight Academy, offering airline-oriented flight training and a direct career path to the airlines. For more information, call (904) 256-7895.