‘The Flying Sioux’

FLIGHT Changing UND call sign raises safety concerns among officials.

A UND student lands an airplane at Grand Forks Airforce Base. File photo.

Although the Fighting Sioux is no longer UND’s official mascot, it is still used by some UND programs.

One of those is the university’s aviation program, which uses “Sioux” as its call sign. A call sign is a word used to signal aircraft from the flight school.

Dean of John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences Bruce Smith said although the school is open to the idea of changing the call sign, the FAA thinks there could be safety problems with changing a name that has been in use for so long.

“When we have 120 airplanes at any given time on cross country routes, our call sign is recognized by air traffic control as being students flying,” Smith said. “It alerts the controllers that these are not professionals and allows them to provide special attention.”

The call sign Sioux has been in use since before Smith began his job ten years ago.

Smith says during the 2002-2003 school year, they tried to change the call sign.

“It’s just a word to us,” spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration’s Great Lakes Region, Elizabeth Isham Cory told the Grand Forks Herald.

Cory said there were safety concerns over changing the name, which influenced the decision to keep the name. With a different name, communication misunderstandings could lead to collisions.

“As a student in the aviation program, I do not feel negatively or positively about the Sioux call sign being used for our aircraft,” UND student Brice Pinkowski said. “However, I feel sensitively about those students who take offense to the use of the call sign.”

Other students echoed similar thoughts.

“I feel neutral about it, because it makes no difference what specific word you use to describe an aircraft,” air traffic control major Aimee Fanter said.

However, Fanter also said using the word Sioux as a call sign distinguishes the aircraft and using the words like Sioux actually makes it easier to tell that aircraft apart.

As of now UND has no plans to change the call sign.

Smith said he does not foresee any changes to UND’s call sign because of safety regulations.

Ashley Marquis is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected].