Air Race Classic celebrates 80 years

routemapWomen pilots will gather in Denver June 23 to continue what was started in 1929, when 20 women pilots, including Amelia Earhart, made history by entering a transcontinental air race from Santa Monica, Calif., to Cleveland, Ohio.

Over the years, the race, dubbed the “Powder Puff Derby” by Will Rogers, has evolved into the Air Race Classic. Today, it is the only all-women transcontinental air race. Year after year, women come to test their skills as pilots. Participants come from a wide variety of backgrounds, universities and careers, with ages ranging from 18 to 90.

Today’s race is won based on the efficiency and accuracy a team exhibits in all aspects of the race. All airplanes are assigned a handicap speed, allowing planes with varying horsepower to race against each other. Teams are judged based on their performance compared to their airplane’s handicap. The objective is to give each team an opportunity to use its best cross-country skills regarding weather and winds. The race also now includes longer legs with a course of 2,359 nautical miles. This year’s route includes stops in Liberal, Kan., Sweetwater, Texas, Lufkin, Texas, Russellville, Ark., Grenada, Miss., Sparta, Tenn., Racine, Wisc., and ends in Atlantic, Iowa.

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