By Bob Shane
This year’s 30th Annual Air Race Classic was held from June 20-23. The four-day event covering 2,478 statute miles saw 32 teams depart Falcon Field in Mesa, Ariz., on a route with designated stops in Santa Teresa, N.M.; Ozona, Texas; Bryan, Texas; Bastrop, La.; Ada, Okla.; Lawrence, Kansas; and Albert Lea, Minn. The race ended in Menominee, Mich.
The Air Race Classic, only open to women, attracts female pilots of all ages and backgrounds. The roots of the race extend back to 1929, the Powder Puff Derby and Amelia Earhart, who was the first president of the 99s, the organization that started the race. The Air Race Classic is for fixed wing aircraft. Participants can only fly during daylight hours, under visual flight rules. The first place prize is $5,000 with monetary awards going to the top 10 finishers.
“Each plane is handicapped based on what the airplane should do,” explained Vicki Hunt, the current president of the Air Race Classic. “You race against that handicap.”
This system enables planes of varying horsepower to participate. To win, the handicap, or average cruise speed, must be exceeded by as wide a margin as possible.
Technicians inspected each aircraft upon its arrival in Mesa, looking for safety items and undocumented speed mods. Care was taken to make sure that none of the participants had illegally modified an aircraft to enhance its speed.
Each aircraft was assigned a number representing its takeoff order at the start of the race. Later, each team decided when to leave a designated airport, enabling them to use the weather and wind in the hopes of improving their time.
This year, the Classic 6 team of Mooney CEO Gretchen Jahn and Carol Foy, flying Jahn’s 2005 Mooney M2OR Ovation 2GX, took first place, with a handicap of 174.23 and race total of 21.731. Behind them in second place was the Classic 1 team of Denise Waters and Ruth Maestre, flying a 1979 Grumman Tiger AA5B, with an HCP of 126.87 and race total of 20.230. Classic 2 team members Katherine Conrad and Katie Sparrow, flying a 2000 Piper Warrior III PA28-161, with an HCP of 106.00 and race total of 19.528, took third place.
Further race results can be viewed at [http://www.airraceclassic.org].