The War Eagle Flying Team soared into third place at Daytona SAFECON regionals and is heading to nationals May 2013.
"The whole point of these competitions is safety," said Blake Schuette, co-captain of the flying team and junior in management. "There's a safety award at the end that goes to the safest school. I think that's a reason why this competition was started to begin with."
The competitions include both ground and flying events.
"There's a lot of outside knowledge that goes into flying than just getting into the plane and flying," said David Hoebelheinrich, co-captain of the flying team and junior in aviation management.
Ground events include SCAN, a simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation test.
"It's an exam that everyone takes that tests your knowledge," Hoebelheinrich said. "They'll give you a flight saying ,'here's your flight, data, people, weather, so go ahead and plan your flight.'"
Other ground events include aircraft recognition, pre-flight inspection plan and a simulator.
"It's flying as if you had no reference to the ground or if you were flying in the clouds," Hoebelheinrich said. "They see how accurate you can be and how accurate your path is."
The team flies CESSNA 172s, which can hold up to four people, but they will compete in each event alone.
The flying events involve short field, power-off landings and message drops that all test the competitors on descent planning, Hoebelheinrich said.
"Basically you have a 300 ft box that you have to land in, and you're being tested on how well you land in that box, which is the size of a shower curtain," Schuette said.
Hoebelheinrich said the flying team isn't limited to students in the aviation program.
All of the competitions are practice for the team member's future careers, especially for Hoebelheinrich's.
"For me, I want to go to the airlines some day and fly for them, so I'm an instructor here in Auburn," Hoebelheinrich said. "I teach mostly the newer students that are in the private pilot courses, so I teach them basic takeoffs, landings and basic navigation."
Many of the flying team's veteran members graduated, so more than half the team is made up of newer members ,Schuette said.
"For us to come in third in such a competitive region in regionals is a really good accomplishment," Schuette said. "We did a lot more flying practice this year and it paid off. We're going to keep on rolling for the same thing until we get to nationals."
Schuette says she does not know what to expect.
"We definitely have a shot to not come in dead last," Schuette said. "Other schools, like Embry Riddle and North Dakota, have planes given to their flight teams, so they tend to do much better because they have the ability to stack their team from over 200 flight students."
Hoebelheinrich has high hopes for his team, and works with the University to get the planes they use for competitions.
"We could even be top three," Hoebelheinrich said. "The University allows us to use their planes in return for us washing the fleet."
Because flying is not cheap (it can cost up to $150 an hour to turn on the engine) fundraising is a big deal for the flying team.
The team will hold its first golf tournament March 22 and is in the process of redefining its online merchandise site.
"We have nice polos, dress shirts, T-shirts and hats," Hoebelheinrich said. "Things that we can sell that have Auburn Aviation on them, we sell to the flight students just so they can have something to say that they are a part of the program and to be proud of what we have."
The local airports also sell Auburn aviation gear.
"They've been a big help and probably have sold over 200 T-shirts in the last two years, which has made a major difference for us," Hoebelheinrich said.
Auburn will host regionals next year, so the team needs all the funding it can get, Schuette said.
"The school will pay dues to us, but if we really want to make it good and show them what Auburn is and be the hospitable people that we are, we need to have more money for that," Schuette said. "We're really excited to host."