Photo provided by Shelby Ray: A pilot safely lands at the Lewis Airport.
Hanna Frank, Contributor
Training for Lewis University’s award-winning Flight Team increased in intensity during the few weeks before the five-day-long regional competition, which kicked off Oct. 14 at Purdue University.
Megan Zahos, assistant chief pilot and head coach, prepared the team in the final weeks before competition by recreating, as closely as possible, the same competitive environment the team would face at Regionals.
“The last week before competition, we work hard to simulate the testing environment by increasing stress levels during the events and closely replicating the tests for the respective events,” Zahos said. “We are firm believers in ‘you compete how you practice’ so we really get serious and down to business.”
With not much time between the start of school and Regionals, the Flight Team has to fit in as much practice as possible during their four days of training each week.
“Back to school, back to competition,” Zahos laughed.
During the last weeks of training, the members have to set their alarm clocks a bit earlier. Their days begin at 6 a.m., when they practice landings. After their early morning training and regularly scheduled classes, the team heads back to evening practice until 9:30 p.m. where they prepare for other events they will compete in at Regionals.
Zahos explained that after several years of coming in second place, the team focused more on landings this year, which are worth more points in competition, in hopes of earning first place and beating one of their biggest rivals, Southern Illinois University.
Hosting of the event rotates between the competing schools in the region based on a six-year schedule. Unfortunately, this year, Lewis didn’t have a home-field advantage. However, the team was thankful that Purdue, this year’s host, wasn’t too far away and the team was able to scout the location, and even practice.
“Purdue is close, so it’s useful because we can go down there and check out the airport and make sure they feel comfortable,” explained Zahos.
While stress levels may rise during the intense training weeks before events, Flight Team members recognize the benefits of being part of the competitive group. Erik Rasmussen, a flight team member, appreciates the people he’s met during his time spent in competition.
“Flight team has provided me with tremendous opportunities to form camaraderies as well as competitive bonds with other people,” Rasmussen shared.
Zahos also said the connections flight team members make with other people in the field is the greatest take-away of their participation. It’s something they will need and use after graduation.
“The biggest benefit of flight team after graduation is the contacts that the students have had the opportunity to make over their years competing,” Zahos said. “The people that they meet here at Lewis and those that they compete against will be fellow flight instructors, in their classes at airlines and their captains.”
On top of professional connections, members receive a greater flight training experience and pave the way for future leadership opportunities. “Flight team members are sharper, they communicate better and they create more opportunities for themselves,” said Zahos. “They become leaders.”