Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Women's Transcontinental AirRace Classic

It's amazing how things can change in the blink of an eye. I received a rather unremarkable request from a friend of mine yesterday asking me if I could put out the word for someone needing a female pilot for a rather long, but very short notice trip. I distribute messages to my contact database quite a bit, whether the pilot is needed for a presentation, public speaking event, flying gig, etc., so I began first with a tweet:

AIR RACE CLASSIC CO-PILOT NEEDED June 23 - 26 DM for details and PLS RT!

(If you don't know what Twitter is yet, please (or pls) visit

Some of my twitter friends did RT (or Retweet) and I did get a DM (or Direct Message). Then I started to write up a longer post for FB (Facebook) when I realized I didn't know what the heck I was tweeting and FBing so I better do a little research.

I knew of course, as I mentioned in an earlier post, about the Cleveland Air Race.

Women’s air racing all started in 1929 with the First Women’s Air Derby. Twenty pilots raced from Santa Monica, CA to Cleveland, OH, site of the National Air Races. Racing continued through the ‘30’s and was renewed again after WWII when the All Women’s Transcontinental Air Race (AWTAR), better known as the Powder Puff Derby, came into being. The AWTAR held its 30th, final and commemorative flight in 1977. When the AWTAR was discontinued, the Air Race Classic, Ltd., (ARC) stepped in to continue the tradition of transcontinental speed competition for women pilots and staged its premier race. The Air Race Classic was reincorporated in 2002 into the Air Race Classic, Inc., a non-profit 501(c)3 organization.

But I knew nothing about what it consisted of today. Easily enough, I found that the organization is dedicated to

* Encouraging and educating current and future women pilots

* Increasing public awareness of general aviation

* Demonstrating women's roles in aviation

* Preserving and promoting the tradition of pioneering women in aviation.

Which is completely in line with the mission of Girls With Wings, using women in aviation to inspire girls to achieve their full potential! So I started thinking... Nothing really on my calendar, except of course, working on Girls With Wings events, like our upcoming training session in NY, preparing for our booth at Oshkosh EAA Airventure, and a tour with my employer, NetJets, who has been very generous of late in giving out leaves of absence. Note that I personally have very little GA (or General Aviation) experience, being a military pilot who went straight into the airlines, so it'll be educational. And this would be a great opportunity to see the country under VFR, or visual flight rules, since I'm usually flying miles above the earth and above the clouds in a Citation X. AND it's a great networking experience. So my wheels started turning; I tweeted:

@ShelleyDelayne I've got to get a few more details. But I'd love to see what real pilots do!

@ symbol means you're replying to someone.

I gave the remaining member of the Pink and Pearls flight team, Heather, a call. She was understandably a bit non committal when I talked to her. Because of course, she hadn't met me. And I hadn't met her. This race is officially from June 23 - 26, 2009. From Denver, CO to Atlantic, IA, and covers 2359.0 nm/2714.7 sm. But, there are events, meetings, schedules, etc., from 9am the morning of the 19th, til late at night the 29th. TEN days' worth. This is a long time to spend with someone you don't know!

Race Route for 2009

Start: Denver, CO (APA) hosted by the Colorado Chapter fo the Ninety-Nines

Liberal, KS (LBL)
Sweetwater, TX (SWW)
Lufkin, TX (LFK)
Russellville, AR (RUE)
Grenada, MS (GNF)
Sparta, TN (SRB)
Jacksonville, IL (IJX)
Racine, WI (RAC)
Finish: Atlantic, IA (AIO) hosted by Airworks, the Atlantic Chamber of Commerce, Cass Atlantic Development Corporation and the Atlantic Community Promotion Commission.

As I told her, I was tempted to volunteer myself but my only issues were, obviously, financial ones. I'd have to give up my paycheck when I took leave from my job, and there are costs involved with doing the race. You know, fuel, lodging, food...? The great thing about this team is that they've been doing a little fundraising! The Pink and Pearls team, so named for Nancy Bird Walton, Australia’s first aviatrix to use a Commercial Pilots License in 1935 where she provided an aerial baby clinic and ambulance in far west NSW and Queensland. Not only had they done the MONTHS of planning involved, they had gotten donations and sponsorships to help cover some of the costs of leasing an airplane. Not to mention the fact that one of the team's sponsors is going to provide Hot Pink Flightsuits. Uh, not my best color :/ (Do you see where my train of thought is heading?)

So I responded to another woman pilot on twitter with: @Av8rgirl I know, I'm thinking about putting myself in the running. Checking flts to CA now!

As I tried to figure out how to get to LAX on a friday when it was already wednesday. I called a friend of mine who is a super incredible flight instructor (and wife of a guy I used to fly with at Flight Options) and said, "what would I need to do to make sure I am legal and able to do this flight?" Remember, the clock is ticking here. Go straight to the source! She gave me the cliff notes version, and erased any other hesitation I might have had when she said it would be a perfect way to spread the news about Girls With Wings. We can even bring Penelope Pilot, who encourages more girls to have an interest in aviation, along for the ride!

The race provides the following resources as well:

Scholastic Outreach - Introduce Air Racing concepts and history into your community. Learn about the opportunities for your Girl Scouts when the Air Race Classic comes to your area.
This year onsite meetings with the Racers will be at both the Denver Start and the Atlantic Terminus. Youth at these airports will meet the Racers as they share their stories and answer questions about racing and aviation choices today.
- Youth "Meet the Racers," Saturday, June 20 - Denver Centennial Airport 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm - Girls 6 - 17 years of age, Saturday, June 27 - Atlantic Municipal Airport 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm

So I tweeted:

Remember tweet about co-pilot for AirRace Classic? Would anyone have a spare buddy pass so I can get out there? Yeah, me, Miss Spontaneity.

...and then, after Ken Nebrig, an airline pilot who generously donated to the GWW scholarship last year offered a buddy pass, I called Heather back. Asked her a few more questions, and then just threw caution to the wind and told her I'd join her team. So I tweeted with a little more confidence: Guess what, y'all. I'm going to do the 2009 AirRace Classic!

I am now only going as far as Denver, not to CA for a checkout, since it's not really required. I'll play co-pilot and not log any PIC time. Heather and I will be Classic 21 (34 teams in all). So I'm lining everything up here and then reality starts sinking in:

@fly2Bfree I'm kinda nervous! This is a unfamiliar world of flying for me. I went from military to airlines. VFR? Flight Following? Huh?

This is a major big deal. There are pages of information on the website. We don't have any hotels lined up, any extra cash, haven't built the webpage, done this blog entry, packed (done laundry even), written a press release... Ack!

So I tweet: @KimberlyRisley I am going to be in the race! Got a whole 48 hours notice before I need to be in Denver where the race starts!

I had to get zen about it though. After all, life is short, something always works out, etc. And I started to think about what a great life experience this is going to be.

@keithjjones I know I am always so jealous of the folks down at lower altitudes flying for fun!

So I've spent the last 24 hrs trying to get ready for the trip. My biggest obstacle has been finding a way to Denver. My twitter friends came through again, this time with a buddy pass on another airline. I just can't afford to buy a ticket now so this really helps. I'm still planning and packing, hence the slightly rushed tone of this entry.

I will tweet and blog and post pictures of the race, here and at It's a little late for me to find sponsors or donations at this point, but I would like to take this opportunity to ask folks to visit the GWW online store and make a purchase. It would really help with the finances of GWW. You can also make a donation to the GWW scholarship while you're there.

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