I first heard about the Womens Air Race Classic at this years Women in Aviation conference in Reno, Nevada from a friend and local chapter member, Lynette. She also happens to be an airplane mechanic (which is pretty amazing) and has worked with the pilots and their planes in previous races. The conversation immediately drew my attention. My eyes must’ve grown so wide that they probably looked like they would pop right out of my head! This is exactly the kind of thing that interests me: flying and competition. What could be more exciting than that? I wanted a piece of the action! Upon immediately Googling (can you believe that’s a word now?) the event, my heart sank. A booked family vacation would not allow me to participate this year in the race. Would you believe that I immediately proceeded to email my travel agent to find out what the cancellation process would entail? It’s true. That option pretty quickly had to be laid to rest. The European family vacation would have to proceed as planned (terrible, isn’t it??). No air race for me this year. Waah! The dates of the 2019 race are already in my calendar and there is a prospective teammate ready to join me!
Air Race History
Based on my internet research, America’s first official women’s only air race took place in 1929. It was called the Womens Air Derby. None other than Amelia Earhart was one of the first participants. Her team came in 5th place that year. The race began in Santa Monica, CA and ended in Cleveland, Ohio. This event led to the development of other races for women in subsequent years. The idea and birth of the Ninety-Nines Women’s Aviation Organization actually began at the races final stop in Cleveland.
42nd Annual, 2018
This years race was 4 days long and began in Sweetwater, Texas on June 19. Sweetwater is the home of the National WASP WWII museum. That is the perfect location for these women to gain some inspiration and motivation! The race ended in Fryeburg, Maine. There are 8 airport checkpoints between, in various locations across the central states, mid-west and northeast. Flying can only take place during daylight hours and in VFR (visual flight rules) conditions. This years weather brought on some challenges and delays. There are 51 teams competing this year. Most of the participants are competing for prizes but there are some teams that are “non-competitive.” The experience gained would be immeasurable, even if you don’t “WIN.” However, I would want to win. Ricky Bobby said, “If you’re not first, you’re last…”. Ha!
There are some basic qualifications to enter but they are minimal.
1) You must have a Private or higher airman’s certificate with a rating for the class airplane to be flown;
2) Minimum 100 hours PIC logged (by race start);
3) Current medical certificate or BasicMed documents;
4) Proof of required flight review or added rating;
5) Either the pilot or copilot must have a minimum of 500 hours PIC or a current instrument rating.
Per the website, the Air Race Classic is dedicated to:
Encouraging and educating current and future women pilots
Increasing public awareness of general aviation
Demonstrating women’s roles in aviation
Preserving and promoting the tradition of pioneering women in aviation
Maybe you aren’t a pilot or have no desire to actually race in an event like this but you do want to encourage other women in aviation. There are many opportunities to help. There are sponsorships available or you can spread awareness through social media. Find a local team to support either monetarily or as a cheerleader! You can follow the race online at:https://airraceclassic2018.maprogress.com. It’s very cool to see the teams names and witness their progress. This is an incredible journey for these ladies and they deserve recognition for taking on such a unique challenge!
Shortly after realizing my dreams of participating in this years race were crushed, there were two young ladies who approached me looking for flyGIRL to sponsor them. After learning they were from my alma mater, Middle Tennessee State University, I knew this was the perfect fit for me to be involved in the race even if I couldn’t physically fly my own little plane. Therefore, living vicariously through them and obsessively stalking all of their progress was exciting.
If you were late to the party this year, future dates are already posted on the Air Race Classic website, www.airraceclassic.org. By the way, I’ll be looking for cheerleaders in 2019!