War Eagle Flying Team Wins Prestigious Loening Trophy at National SAFECON 2022

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Auburn University’s War Eagle Flight Team earned the 2022 National Intercollegiate Flying Association, or NIFA, SAFECON aviation’s highest honors earlier this month.

The War Eagle Flying Team is a student-run organization for Auburn flight students with a passion for aviation. Each year, the team competes in NIFA’s SAFECON, a national competition for collegiate airmen. Teams and individuals are judged on academics, safety, professionalism and more, and this year the War Eagle Pilot Team took home the top prize.

The Loening Trophy, collegiate aviation’s oldest and rarest award, was first awarded in 1929 by a panel of aviation legends such as Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart. The award itself is named after Grover Loening, an aeronautical engineer who worked with the Wright brothers.

Blake Adkins, Senior Professional Flying, said this major achievement shows that the War Eagle flight team can compete with other nationally ranked teams.

“To me, the Loening Trophy not only represents Auburn Aviation’s innovation and progress over the past several years, but it shows that we truly are a world-class program,” Adkins said. “It is humbling to know that I was part of a team that first brought home this prestigious trophy to Auburn University. All of the students, faculty, and professors work so hard every day, and this trophy shows that this work is recognized in the aviation community.

In addition to the Loening Trophy, the War Eagle flight team has won the American Airlines Safety Award, the Competition Safety Award, and the Collegiate Aviation Progress Award in the team category. Individually, team members received numerous top-10 finishes during the competition, which saw over 100 entries across all events.

War Eagle’s new pilot team president, Christopher Hopkins, says the passion, dedication and long hours spent preparing for national competition not only won prestigious awards, but made all people involved a better airman.

“Our team’s accomplishments this year are proof that hard work pays off,” Hopkins said. “It takes all team members working together to ensure our success. This year’s accomplishments are just the beginning. As Auburn Airmen, the future is bright for this team and our program, and I’m excited to see what we’ll accomplish together.

Aviation school principal Jim Witte said the performance of the War Eagle flight crew is a testament to the skills, knowledge and attitude of future aviation leaders. The Loening Trophy, Witte said, highlights not only their flight expertise, but also their academics, community involvement, overall safety and professionalism.

“The Loening Trophy is the ‘Super Bowl’ of all collegiate aeronautical competitions,” Witte said. “Pride, respect and humility are all part of the price; Auburn students upheld the standards of the Auburn Creed written by George Petrie and brought a point of pride, respect and humility to the Auburn family.

Check out the full list of War Eagle Flying Team rewards below:

Team rewards

  • The Loening Trophy
  • American Airlines Safety Award
  • Competition Safety Award
  • Collegiate Aviation Progress Award
  • Judges’ Trophy, 10th place
  • Floor Events Championship, 10th place
  • Flight Events Championship, Ninth Place


Individual awards

  • Men’s Achievement Award, Second Place, Eric Tivy
  • Women’s Achievement Award, third place, Maggie Hearn
  • Simulated Instrument Flight, Fifth Place, Riley Hoag
  • Message Drop, seventh place, Riley Hoag and Riley Colliau
  • Unlimited browsing, tied for seventh, Eric Tivy and Luke Russo
  • Unlimited Sailing, Seventh Place, Thomas Bingham and Christopher Hopkins
  • Unlimited Sailing, Ninth Place, Ashley Baldwin and Maggie Hearn
  • Floor trainer, eighth place, Riley Hoag
  • Full simulated air navigation, 17th place, Eric Tivy
  • Outstanding Team Member, Riley Colliau

For more information on Auburn University School of Aviation, go here.

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