KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — There’s a group at Western Michigan University taking their skills to new heights and this week the group celebrates its 70th anniversary.
They’re called the Sky Broncos, WMU’s precision flight team, and they recently took home the regional championship title for the fourth time in a row.
The team of 15 students gives up 16 hours every weekend to work on their craft which they hope pays off.
It only takes a few seconds to notice the team’s fervor for flying.
“I plan to go to a regional airline,” said co-captain and WMU senior Collin Kearney.
“The dream goal is becoming an airline pilot, so just got to get there and get the hours,” Luke Ostrom told 24 Hour News 8. “Once you get into it you can’t stop! It’s like a bug that everyone has.”
“My goal is to be an airline pilot — has been since day one first airline trip,” added West Michigan native Josh Nienhause. He’s a junior on the team and studying aviation flight science.
“I just caught the bug and it stuck with me,” Nienhause continued.
24 Hour News 8’s Marvis Herring rode in an aircraft with Kearney who showed him a few of the tricks and skills the team does at competitions.
Kearney and others on the team come from a background of flying, but not everyone on the team does. Niehause proudly falls under that second category.
“The first flight lesson — a lot of people like to call it drinking out of a fire hose,” he joked.
Nienhause became fascinated with flying as a kid. Then, he began taking his passion to new heights.
He attended the West Michigan Aviation Academy instead of his local school, Kenowa Hills High School.
Nienhause said he joined the precision team to share the skill with others.
The group said that the benefits of going to WMU, the third ranked flight school in the nation, and having Sky Broncos on your resume are also a pretty good perk.
“We have connections all over — almost every major regional airline and every major airline, as well as any corporate flight departments around the country,” said Kearney. “It’s a lot of hard work and a lot of dedication, but it’s all worth it when we win the regional championship.”
The Sky Broncos are now focused on their national competition in May. Last year, they took home fifth, but they’re hoping for a first place win.