The 80th Annual Air Race Classic takes to the skies today, beginning in Denver, Colorado, flying into the deep south and back to the Midwest to wrap up in western Iowa. The all-women transcontinental air race began 33 years ago as the Powder Puff Derby. Lori Reid co-manages the Atlantic Municipal Airport, which serves as the finish line.
Reid says Atlantic is fortunate to be the destination for the teams of women flyers. Reid says it’s the first time the race has ended in such a small town and residents are ready to show the advantages of "what a small town can do." She says the women will fly through several states before ending up in Atlantic on Friday.
She says the trip takes them through Kansas, Arkansas, Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa. The whole journey is about 24-hundred miles. The pilots are required to arrive at the Atlantic airport by no later than 5 P.M. on Friday, but some may begin arriving as early as Thursday, depending on the weather.
Airplanes entered in the competition must be "stock" or minimally modified with a variety of restrictions on the engines. Reid says the planes are inspected at the beginning and end of the race to make sure no modifications have been made that would disqualify the racers. She says none of the women are professional racing pilots, but some do fly for a living, are professional instructors, or work for air ambulance services.
Thirty-four teams are registered for the event this year, with a total of 73 pilots. Included in the mix are seven collegiate teams comprised of women in their early 20s. The oldest pilot is Ruby Sheldon, who is 91. The public is invited to come to the Atlantic Airport on Friday evening to watch the planes cross the finish line and visit with the pilots afterward.
On Saturday at 2 P.M., some of the pilots will put on a program for young girls who are interested in aviation.