January 2, 2014
By Jill W. Tallman
The Air Race Classic—a women’s air racing event with roots dating back to 1929—began accepting entries for this year’s race on Jan. 2. As many as 55 of pilots will launch on June 16 from Concord, Calif., making their way across the country to New Cumberland, Pa., by June 19.
The four-day event is flown in daytime, VFR conditions in stock aircraft. Routes vary each year and average 2,400 statute miles. The 2014 event, with stops in Oregon, Nevada, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, and Ohio, is 2,654 statute miles, or approximately 2,307 nautical miles. Each aircraft is assigned a handicapped speed, and the goal is to fly the “perfect cross-country”—utilizing the most favorable winds—and achieve a groundspeed as far above the handicap speed as possible.
The first Women’s Air Derby took place in 1929 when 20 pilots raced from Santa Monica, Calif., to Cleveland, Ohio. The first competition featured notable female pilots of the era, including Pancho Barnes, Amelia Earhart, Louise Thaden, and Bobbi Trout.
According to Air Race Classic, women’s air racing continued through the 1930s and was renewed after World War II with the All Women’s Transcontinental Air Race. When that event was discontinued in 1977, the Air Race Classic “stepped in to continue the tradition of transcontinental speed competition for women pilots.” Air Race Classic became a nonprofit organization in 2002.
The race draws pilots of all ages and skill levels, according to Air Race Classic Race Director Terry Carbonell. Speaking at AOPA Aviation Summit in October 2013, she said, “We like to call it a flying camp where, in two weeks, you spend time with 150 of your new best friends.”
To get started, pilots must request a racer registration kit, available from Air Race Classic. Entries are accepted until April 1, with late registration available until April 15 with Air Race Classic authorization and a late fee. For more information, see the website.
Event organizers say the race needs lots of volunteer assistance—and you don’t need to be a pilot to help. Volunteers are needed as hosts and hostesses at stops, ramp coordinators, drivers, registration desk assistants, timers, airplane inspectors, banquet organizers, security personnel, and other duties. If interested, email Air Race Classic.
AOPA Technical Editor Jill W. Tallman is an instrument-rated private pilot who owns a Piper Cherokee 140.
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