Each senior on the Oklahoma State University Flying Aggies Flight Team receives a hand-crafted model airplane, a testament to the senior’s years of dedicated flight training and a coach’s dedication to each student.
Dr. Matt Vance, assistant professor of aviation education and Flying Aggies head coach, researches human decision-making when flying aircraft, new pilot training techniques and autonomous airplanes’ accuracy. In the last four years, he has built more than 30 aircraft, with six more in work for distribution in the spring of 2021. His talent in dissecting the human condition inspired an esteemed Flying Aggies tradition in which he associates the personality of an airplane with each of his seniors.
“I strive to leave a little bit of a legacy with each person through the planes,” Vance said. “It makes my hobby even more enjoyable when I can share it, and it broadens the opportunity for others to enjoy the experience of associating an airplane with a human.”
For each model airplane gift, Vance selects three adjectives he believes the airplane model and senior have in common. For example, Vance paired the World War II Spitfire and Buzz Bomb with a senior he considered to be suave, graceful and purposeful. He gifted a model Vought-Hiller XC-14A to a senior he saw as sharing the plane’s unconventional nature, powerful turboprop and need for dedicated pitch control. His model Northup XB-35 went to a senior Vance considered unique, ahead of his time and elegant.
“I spend a considerable amount of time with the team, coaching, teaching, watching, grading, counseling, encouraging and observing each personality,” Vance said. “By the time a team member has been with the team three or four seasons, I know their personality very well.”
When Vance became head coach, he sought to preserve the culture of excellence and longstanding success the team had enjoyed. Now in his fifth year with the Flying Aggies, the team recently won first place at the regional National Intercollegiate Flying Association competition and looks forward to competing in the national competition in Oshkosh, Wis., once COVID-precautions enable the event to be safely held.
Long before Vance builds model planes for the Flying Aggies seniors, he invests in each Flying Aggies team member individually to help them identify and augment their aviation skills. After graduation, he invites many OSU alumni back to speak to his classes, and nearly all OSU graduates are hired as flight instructors at the OSU Flight Center.
“We hold our students to a high level of accountability,” Vance said. “It produces a culture of excellence, but also a collegial and family-like atmosphere. Our students take pride in their work, and everyone knows everyone.”
While the aviation industry embraces automation, Vance strives to maintain a culture of human connection. He gifts each Flying Aggies senior with a memento of what makes them unique.
MEDIA CONTACT: Brittany Bowman| 540-908-0929 | firstname.lastname@example.org