By Sarrah Peters
On June 22, over 50 all women flight teams from all over the United States will leave from Fredericksburg, Va. in the Women’s Air Race Classic. From there they will travel to nine other airports in seven different states before stopping in Gadsden at the last stop before the race’s end in Fairhope, Ala. The route changes yearly and is roughly 2,400 miles long.
The Air Race Classic stems from the 1929 Women’s Air Derby, where Amelia Earhart and 19 other female pilots flew from Santa Monica, California to Cleveland, Ohio. The 1929 race marked the beginning of women’s air racing in the United States.
Pilots range from 17 years to 90 years old, and work in teams of at least two. The women may only fly during daylight and are given four days to complete the route. To make the challenge fair for different types of planes, handicaps are determined for each airplane in the race, based on the craft’s current and best speed. The challenge for the race team is to get ground speeds as far above their plane’s handicap as possible. To maximize the results pilots try to strategize to get the best possible weather conditions. Scores are calculated by each race leg’s ground speed, subtracting any penalties and then subtracting the plane’s handicap.
Volunteers organize the race and its events. The race events began June 18 with plane inspections. The weekend before the race, race teams attend meetings and host educational aviation youth activities, as well as, socialize with each other. More youth activities will be held at the race’s end. On June 27 an awards banquet will be held for the racers to announce the winners. Winners will be awarded prizes, such as medallions, trophies and cash, valued at over $16,500.
Gadsden’s Northeast Alabama Regional Airport Manager Fred Sington nsays that the airport expects racers to be flying in on Wednesday and Thursday.
In fact, Sington says that some race teams have been flying through this week to check out the course before the race.
For more information about the Air Race Classic, visit airraceclassic.org.