Daytona Beach, FL — Whether their interest in flying was sparked by other pilot family members or from listening to commercial jets and F-16s roar overhead, six female Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University pilots have their eyes set on one goal – winning the 42nd Air Race Classic (ARC).
Skillfully maneuvering through unexpected weather and rough terrain, three Embry-Riddle teams will take to the skies to once again try and claim the top collegiate spot on June 19 from Sweetwater, Texas and finish Friday, June 22, in Fryeburg, Maine. Fifty-six teams of 121 pilots from 35 states and Australia, Canada, Colombia, Kenya and New Zealand are in the competition, including 18 colleges or universities.
The more than 2,600-mile, four-day race will take two teams from the Daytona Beach Campus and one from the Prescott, Arizona Campus through 15 states. Embry-Riddle Prescott, which has participated every year since 2009, finished first and second in the collegiate competition last year and second and fifth overall. An Embry-Riddle Daytona Beach team has participated every year since 2007, finishing five times as the No. 1 team in the collegiate division and first in the overall competition in 2016.
Considered the oldest race of its kind in the U.S., the Air Race Classic dates back to the 1929 Women’s Air Derby, also known as the Powder Puff Derby, where Amelia Earhart and 19 other female pilots raced from Santa Monica, California, to Cleveland, Ohio. The ARC is the ultimate test for piloting skill and aviation decision-making for female pilots of all ages and walks of life from university students and commercial airline pilots to former military and aviation enthusiasts.
REPRESENTING THE DAYTONA BEACH CAMPUS:
Riddle Racers Gold Team # 31
Riddle Racers Blue Team # 32
Alternates for the Riddle Racers are Audrey Hallam, a sophomore in the Aeronautical Science program from Napa Valley, California, working on her single-engine commercial license, and Cheyenne Parker, of Montgomery, Texas, an instrument-rated private pilot working on her commercial license and majoring in aeronautical science with a minor in meteorology.
REPRESENTING THE PRESCOTT CAMPUS:
The Thumb Beauts Team #53
The Air Race Classic pilots were selected for this prestigious competition by Embry-Riddle College of Aviation administrators from each campus based of their skills, competitive spirit and knowledge of aviation, safety, navigation, meteorology and crew resource management. All Embry-Riddle teams will fly Cessna 172 aircraft from the university’s fleet.
Associate professor Debbie Schaum, associate chair of Applied Aviation Sciences, and her weather support operations class of 15 students will provide weather support to the two Daytona Beach Campus teams. The students study the hazards along the route and the climatology as well as recommend takeoff times and flight levels. Schaum said the students use forecasts and real-time weather to make these recommendations to ensure competitive and safe flights between legs. Monitoring the Embry-Riddle Daytona aircraft throughout the race, Schaum and her class also communicates with the two teams during the eight intermediate stops along the route.
“We expose these students who are supporting the air race teams to meteorological tools they may not have used before and to complex cross-country flying,” Schaum said. “The students become invested in the outcome because they are keeping these women competitive and ensuring they are safe.”
The class is also supporting the Sky Vixens team with co-pilot, alumna Emmy Dillon, and pilot Tessa Roberts. Dillon was part of the 2016 Daytona Beach Campus team, along with Abbie Pasmore, who won the overall competition and took first place in the collegiate division.
To follow the Prescott Campus teams on social media, visit the Embry-Riddle – Prescott Women's Air Race Group on Facebook, or go to @erauprarc on Instagram. For the Riddle Racers team, go to their Facebook page at facebook.com/riddleracers. For details on this year’s route, go to airraceclassic.org.