Registration is now open for the 43rd Air Race Classic (ARC), the annual all-women cross-country airplane race.
More than 100 women pilots from around the world are expected to compete in this year’s ARC, which begins Tuesday, June 18, 2019, in Jackson, Tennessee, and ends Friday, June 21 in Welland, Ontario.
The oldest race of its kind in the United States, the ARC traces its roots to the 1929 Women’s Air Derby, in which Amelia Earhart and 19 other female pilots raced from Santa Monica, California, to Cleveland, Ohio. That contest, also known as the Powder Puff Derby, marked the beginning of women’s airplane racing in the United States.
This year’s race marks the 90th anniversary of the historic 1929 competition and will be a truly international event, with a 2,538-mile course that begins in the American South, turns northward near the Gulf of Mexico to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, then crosses the U.S.-Canada border and proceeds across the province of Ontario, ending near Niagara Falls.
This year’s ARC starts at McKellar-Sipes Regional Airport in Jackson, Tennessee, and ends in Welland, Ontario, at Niagara Central Dorothy Rungeling Airport, which was recently renamed in honor of one of Canada’s legendary aviatrixes. Intermediate stops are in LaGrange, Georgia; Hattiesburg, Mississippi; Bryant, Arkansas; Lee’s Summit, Missouri; Fairmont, Minnesota; Wausau, Wisconsin; Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario; North Bay, Ontario; and Brantford, Ontario.
Up to 60 teams of two or three pilots will have four days to complete the course, flying normally aspirated, piston-powered airplanes in visual flight conditions during daylight hours.
Pilots and copilots must have at least 100 hours as pilot-in-command to qualify for the race. One of them must have at least 500 hours as pilot-in-command or a current instrument rating.
If they wish, the pilot and copilot may bring along a teammate, who must hold at least a student pilot certificate.
The race will begin at 8 a.m. June 18 at McKellar-Sipes Regional Airport, with teams departing the runway one after another, 30 seconds apart. From there, the field will spread out as faster planes move to the head of the pack.
At each stop, teams will execute high-speed fly-bys over a timing line as they race against the clock. Faster planes may cover the course in only two days; slower teams may not arrive at the Terminus, Niagara Central Dorothy Rungeling Airport, until moments before the arrival deadline at 5 p.m. June 21.
Because each plane receives a unique handicap, teams are racing against their own best time. This creates a level playing field, so slower planes can compete against faster aircraft on an equal basis, race officials explain.
Teams strategize to play the elements, holding out for better weather or seeking more favorable winds, to beat their handicap by the greatest margin.
Official standings aren’t determined until after the last team has crossed the finish line — the last arrival at the Terminus may, in fact, be the winner!
Prizes for the ARC include medallions, trophies, and cash awards.
Registration for the 2019 Air Race Classic closes at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on March 31, 2019.