MCCC Aviation Student Judy Galayda
Wins Top Pilot Award
in Region VII Competition
N.J. -- Last year she won the "Top Female Pilot" award,
and this year Judy Galayda of Hamilton took the "Top Pilot
Award" at the National Intercollegiate Flying Association Region
VII SAFECON Competition, besting 34 male and three other female
contestants. The event was held Oct. 23-27 in Schenectady, N.Y.
Galayda has learned that a little experience can go a long way.
The Mercer County Community College Aviation Flight Technology student
said an extra year of training and studying enabled her to take
the top prize this year. "It was tougher than in past years,
but it was also nice because we have more experience," Galayda
Aviation Program Coordinator Joseph Blasenstein congratulates Judy
Galayda, who took the "Top Pilot Award" at the Intercollegiate
Flying Association Region VII Competition this October.
feat is all the more impressive considering that two extra teams competed
this year, making for many more competitors. Mercer finished second in
the overall team rankings to Dowling College, a four-year school in New
York. Only one other community college, Schenectady County, participated
in the competition. In addition to Dowling, the other four-year schools
were Delaware State University and Daniel Webster College. Last year Mercer
took the top spot in the competition, as it had for several prior consecutive
A Hamilton resident, Galayda is a 2007 graduate of McCorristin High School
and is attending Mercer through the NJSTARS scholarship program. A Phi
Theta Kappa honors student, she recently completed her Commercial Instrument
Rating, Multi-Engine Commercial Instrument Certificate, and Flight Instructor
Certificate. Her accomplishments resulted in being awarded the "Timothy
Burns Memorial Scholarship" for a continuing aviation student this
According to Aviation Program Coordinator Joseph Blasenstein, "Galayda
is a unique individual; she is an achiever." When asked how Galayda
is viewed by her male counterparts, he said simply, "Competence rules.
They accept her."
Galayda said her main preparation for the competition came from twice-weekly
meetings of the MCCC Flight Team, a club that convenes as an extracurricular
activity, similar to a sports team. Her favorite event is the "Aircraft
Preflight Inspection," which involves inspecting the aircraft and
recording everything that could possibly go wrong. She took the top award
in that category.
Galayda has wanted to be a pilot since she was a young child, and was
primarily influenced by her uncle, Tom Galayda, an Air Force Academy graduate
who flew in Vietnam and worked as a pilot for United Airlines. "He
always told us that he had the best office view in the world," Galayda
Although she initially planned to attend the Air Force Academy, Galayda
said various circumstances led her to the program at Mercer. "I'm
so glad I found it because the northeast region has busy airspace, which
allows you to encounter everything. The changing seasons also make you
learn to fly in a full range of conditions. The program here gives us
a very strong foundation," she said.
Galayda credits Judie Stillwagon, senior technical assistant and assistant
chief pilot, with helping to prepare her. The Flight Team's advisor, Stillwagon
said, "The students work very hard to be part of this team. They
do all the hard work."
The Flight Team took the top prize in several categories. Galayda scored
first in the Simulated Comprehensive Aircraft category. She and teammate
Ricky Vetick took first place in the Navigation Ranking, while William
Dripps took first place in the Computer Accuracy Ranking. Team members
Chris Moyers, Dan Rodgers, Keith Stover and George Swartz scored well
in several categories.
Galayda will be finishing up her degree this spring and is considering
education classes at Mercer for next fall. She eventually would like to
continue at Thomas Edison State College or Rutgers. Joining the military
reserves or a regional airline to gain flight time are also possibilities
farther down the road.
The Flight Team's high score means it is eligible to compete in the national
competition in May in Terre Haute, Ind. Stillwagon says the team is looking
forward to the competition.
Mercer's Aviation Flight Technology program is one of only two in New
Jersey, and the only one with a fleet of airplanes, which are housed at
Trenton-Mercer Airport in Ewing. The program draws students from the tri-state