Fifty-six teams of women pilots will compete in the forty-second running of the Air Race Classic, the annual all-women’s cross-country air race, in June.
The race, flown in day-VFR conditions in normally aspirated piston aircraft, will begin June 19 at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas, and follow a 2,656-mile course through 15 states, concluding June 22 at Eastern Slopes Regional Airport in Fryeburg, Maine.
“The ARC Board of Directors and volunteers have been hard at work preparing for our 42nd race,” said Air Race Classic President Lara Gaerte in a news release. “We look forward to welcoming back veteran racers and meeting new competitors at this year’s Start.”
This year’s 121 racers hail from 35 U.S. states and five foreign countries: Australia, Canada, Colombia, Kenya, and New Zealand. The field includes two teams of mothers and daughters racing together. Top-ranked aerobatic competitor Debby Rihn-Harvey is a return competitor in 2018.
Pilots and co-pilots must have at least a private pilot certificate and a minimum of 100 hours as pilot in command; one must have at least 500 hours as pilot in command or a current instrument rating. They may also carry a teammate who must hold at least a student pilot certificate.
Eighteen colleges or universities will be represented in the field, including teams from Auburn University; California Aeronautical University; Delaware State University; École Nationale d’Aérotechnique of Quebec, Canada; Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach, Florida; Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Prescott, Arizona; Indiana State University; Jacksonville University; Kent State University; Lewis University; Liberty University; Middle Tennessee State University; Purdue University; Southern Illinois University at Carbondale; The Ohio State University; University of Dubuque; University of North Dakota; and Western Michigan University.
California Aeronautical University, Delaware State University, École Nationale d’Aérotechnique of Quebec, and the University of Dubuque are first-time participants.
The 2017 Air Race Classic was won by Dee Bond and McKenzie Krutsinger of New Zealand, flying as team Kiwi Express. They raced in a 1982 Cessna 182R Skylane, achieving a speed of 168.122 mph that beat their handicap speed of 161.487 mph by 6.635 mph on the course originating at Maryland’s Frederick Municipal Airport, where AOPA is headquartered, and ending in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Race participants included an AOPA-fielded team consisting of professional pilot Luz Beattie, “rusty” pilot Kathy Dondzila, and new pilot Paula Wivell, flying a 2001 Cessna Skylane 182T as the AOPAngels.
The Air Race Classic is the oldest race of its kind in the nation, tracing its roots to the 1929 Women's Air Derby, in which Amelia Earhart and 19 other female pilots raced from Santa Monica, California, to Cleveland, Ohio. That race, known as the Powder Puff Derby, marked the beginning of women's air racing in the United States, the nonprofit, all-volunteer Air Race Classic organization said.