SAFECON 2019 @ Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport

Published in Midwest Flyer – August/September 2019 issue

The National Intercollegiate Flying Association (NIFA) held its SAFECON 2019 event, May 13-18, at Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport in Janesville, Wisconsin. The event was hosted by the University of Wisconsin. The chief judge was Andrew Ross, the associate chief judge was Greg Weseman, and the senior chief judge was Erich Hess.

Airport manager, Greg Cullen, reported there were 100 airplanes on the ramp and over 13,000 operations during the 17-day window. Air traffic control, fuel suppliers and the staff at Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport kept busy. There was only one safety incident reported, and the weather cooperated for the most part. The teams were able to get in all events, canceling only a few heats on one day.

“I was very impressed with the students and coaches,” said Cullen. “They were very polite, respectful, and the teams were helpful to one another.”

Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, was selected to host in 2020.

For complete contest results, go to

The National Intercollegiate Flying Association 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. But, its history began almost a century ago.

NIFA traces its roots to early post-World War I powered flight. Young aviators, returning from the war to their collegiate studies, sought to expand upon and use their training and experience to further the nascent cause of civil aviation. “We, students of Columbia University, being ex-army and navy aviators, have organized the Aero Club of Columbia University,” 12 students declared in their May 1, 1919 petition to the university secretary. Similar clubs were born in the early days of flight at Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Lehigh, and other universities and colleges across the United States.

On May 7, 1920, nine schools competed at Mitchel Field – now Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport – in the first contest held by the Intercollegiate Flying Association. Yale took first place, assisted by naval aviator and future founder of Pan American Airways, Juan Trippe, in a war-surplus Curtis Jenny.

In 1929, Grover C. Loening of the Loening Aeronautical Engineering company, who had been America’s first candidate for an aeronautics degree just seven years after the Wright Brothers’ historic flight, established the Loening Intercollegiate Flying Trophy. Loening’s wish was to encourage flying and exceptional achievements among the now many collegiate aviation programs nationwide. The award was judged that first year by Loening and his friends, Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart, and Navy Commander John Towers. The pure silver, Tiffany-designed trophy is still judged and bestowed today at SAFECON each year.

In December of 1934, 23 colleges and universities met in Washington, D.C. to broaden the competition beyond what had been mainly Ivy League schools. They elected officers, chose an air meet location for the following June, and formed a National Intercollegiate Flying Association.

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