ach spring, as college campuses buzz with the anxiety and anticipation of final-exam week, a select handful of students become laser focused on a different kind of test — the intercollegiate national flying championships, an aviation skills competition that pits some of the best and brightest young pilots from around the country against one another to vie for the chance to lead their school’s flight program to victory. This year, 383 students from 28 schools participated in what has come to be called the Safety and Flight Evaluation Conference (Safecon), held April 30 to May 5 at Indiana State University in Terre Haute, a quick hop southwest from Indianapolis. For budding young pilots who flew themselves to the competition in their schools’ airplanes, the journey was the longest cross-country many had ever made — spanning more than a thousand miles for some far-flung teams. Also drawing 53 coaches and 80 judges, the weeklong competition took on a festive atmosphere as the young aviators tested their mettle at the controls of their airplanes, in simulators and on written and hands-on tests. At the end of the week, the scores are tallied and one school is crowned the winner. In 2016 and 2017, the Golden Eagles flight team from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Prescott, Arizona, campus took home the National Championship Trophy. This year they were in search of a rare three-peat as they arrived at Terre Haute Regional Airport adorned in their trademark button-down shirts and ties and with a quiet air of confidence about them. And why not? Considering the rich history of the National Flight Championships dating back almost 100 years, winning twice in two years is a commendable feat — three in a row would put the school in rarefied territory with a handful of past winners, including Harvard’s flight team in the late 1920s and early ’30s, the first three-peat champion.