Women prep for Air Race Classic

June 17, 2010

You could call it a pilot’s weight-loss plan. Heather Woiciechowski and Sandi Terkelsen embarked on a mission to get in shape last year, and they discovered an additional perk to fitness: For every six pounds they lost, they gained a gallon of fuel on board for the 2010 Air Race Classic.

The all-women race starts June 22 in Fort Myers, Fla., and ends in Frederick, Md., at the home airport of AOPA headquarters. Teams are given four days, flying during day VFR, to reach the terminus, with each aircraft handicapped to its own speed. This year’s race falls in the centennial of licensed women pilots and includes pilots ranging from college students to grandmothers.

Woiciechowski and Terkelsen, director of donor development for the AOPA Foundation, will set out in a Piper Warrior as Team 29, or “Warrior Women.” Terkelsen has been blogging about their preparations—from gaining 14 gallons of fuel to plotting the route—and will continue to share the team’s adventures along the route.

“There’s a lot of strategy that goes into the flight planning,” Terkelsen wrote one month before the start date. “… Each ‘leg’ of the race is timed independently and the cumulative time, adjusted by a pre-determined handicap, and increased by any penalties (sooooo many ways to be penalized….) will determine the winner of the race.”

Air Race Classic Inc. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to encouraging and educating current and future women pilots, increasing public awareness of general aviation, and preserving and promoting the tradition of pioneering women in aviation. The first all-women air race in the United States was the First Women’s Air Derby in 1929.

Terminus Coordinator Gail Mesa Norman, of the Sugarloaf Chapter of The Ninety-Nines, said the race is a women’s sport, adding, “but people don’t see it as a sport. … [They] don’t see it at all.” Members of the Frederick, Md., community will get a chance to see it the weekend of June 25, when dozens of teams make their way to Frederick Municipal Airport for the terminus event. AOPA is sponsoring the awards banquet June 27, which will feature the awards, exciting speakers, honored guests, state and local recognition, and a silent auction.