The 36th annual Air Race Classic wrapped up on Friday, June 22 as more than 50 airplanes manned by over 100 female pilots landed at the Clermont County Airport after flying over 2,330 nautical miles in an event that kicked off in Lake Havasu City, Ariz. on Tuesday, June 19.
The event, held every year a over different route, is sponsored by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and benefits a scholarship fund geared towards getting more girls into aviation.
While pilots finished their nine-leg race on Friday, the winner was not announced until the Awards Banquet on Sunday, June 24 as a result of the format under which the race is competed.
Each team of two pilots has their plane handicapped according to the plane’s ground speed in order to level the playing field for the different types of aircrafts competing.
Prior to the race commencing, the ARC handicaps and test flies each plane to make sure everything is in order and falls under the guidelines for the race.
Once the race begins, the pilots have four days to traverse the 2,330.2 nautical miles, allowing for strategy and planning to become a key aspect of the race. Pilots can study weather systems and wind direction to fly in the most advantageous conditions, all in hopes of taking home the title at the end of the week.
The 2012 race included nine checkpoints in New Mexico, Texas, Kansas, Nevada, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Michigan (two) with the final destination being Batavia, Ohio.
Pilots can determine how many legs they wished to cover each day dependent upon wind conditions and fuel levels. For example, the eventual winners, the Racing Aces covered five checkpoints in one day. Each checkpoint is monitored and marked when the plane does a flyby of the airport.
The Aces, the duo of Dianna Stanger and Victoria Holt, used a strategy gained from their experience last year to improve upon their middle-of-pack-finish to win the event this year.
Stanger runs two flight schools in Texas and Holt has been a pilot for 20 years and has her ATP (Airline Transport Pilot) certificate.
The Racing Aces, flying a Cirrus SR-22 Special Edition, put their plan into perfect action over the four-day race, studying the wind directions and weather to be the only team to fly with a tailwind over every leg of the competition.
“Our strategy was to plan, plan, plan and watch the weather and the wind,” Holt said. “We closely monitored the forecast for precipitation and temperature. We were looking most importantly for visual flight conditions and tail wind.”
The Aces took some risks along the way, sitting out an entire day because they didn’t feel they had the conditions they wanted. But it paid off on Sunday night when they were awarded the first-place medal and trophy.
The Air Race Classic is in its 36th year, but the race dates back to 1929 when it was known as the Women’s Air Derby, in which Amelia Earhart took part. The event continued into the 1930s and picked back up following the conclusion of World War II, taking on a new name , All Women’s Transcontinental Air Race, also known as the Powder Puff Derby.
The Powder Puff Derby ran for 30 years up until 1977 until the Air Race Classic picked up the competition.
The Air Race Classic encourages education of current and future women pilots, increases public awareness of general aviation, demonstrates women’s roles in aviation and promotes the tradition of pioneering women in aviation.
“Racing to benefit girls getting into flying is awesome,” Stanger said. “If we can get one girl to try out flying then it was worth it. And we do it well, we came in first.”