The field is set for the 43rd Air Race Classic (ARC), the annual all-women cross-country airplane race.
According to organizers, 51 teams, consisting of 113 women pilots from across the United States and around the world, will take off at 8 a.m. June 18, 2019, from Jackson, Tennessee, for a 2,538-mile international competition that ends June 21 in Welland, Ontario.
The oldest race of its kind in the nation, the Air Race Classic traces its roots to the 1929 Women’s Air Derby, aka the Powder Puff Derby, in which Amelia Earhart and 19 other female pilots raced from Santa Monica, California, to Cleveland, Ohio. This year’s race celebrates the 90th anniversary of that historic competition, which marked the beginning of women’s air racing in the United States.
This year’s course will take racers through nine states and one Canadian province. Teams will depart beginning at 8 a.m. June 18 from McKellar-Sipes Regional Airport in Jackson, taking off 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 of the nine intermediate stops — LaGrange, Georgia; Hattiesburg, Mississippi; Bryant, Arkansas; Lee’s Summit, Missouri; Fairmont, Minnesota; Wausau, Wisconsin; Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario; North Bay, Ontario; and Brantford, Ontario — 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 in Welland — named in honor of one of Canada’s legendary aviatrixes until moments before the arrival deadline at 5 p.m. on June 21, organizers note.
The 51 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.
Fifteen colleges or universities are fielding teams: Auburn University, Colorado Northwestern Community College, Indiana State University, Jacksonville University, Kent State University, LeTourneau University, Lewis University, Liberty University, Metropolitan State University of Denver, Middle Tennessee State University, Northwestern Michigan College, The Ohio State University, Purdue University, University of North Dakota and Western Michigan University.
Because each plane receives a unique handicap, teams are racing against their own best time, not against one another. This creates a level playing field, so slower planes can compete against faster aircraft on an equal basis, organizers 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, officials note.