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June 6, 2014

Purdue student pilots to race coast to coast

Air Classic Race 2014

Pilot Rachel Borsa, from left, and copilot Haley Myers will fly almost 2,700 miles in a small plane as competitors in the 2014 Air Race Classic, running from California to Pennsylvania June 16-19. (Air Race Classic photo)
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Two female Purdue University students will take off at 9 a.m. Monday (June 9) from Purdue University Airport in a small plane for a four-day race that crosses the entire country, beginning June 16 in Concord, California, and finishing in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania.

Pilot Rachel Borsa, a senior from Erie, Pennsylvania, is returning to the women's-only Air Race Classic after serving as Purdue's co-pilot in 2013. Joining her in the cockpit is copilot Haley Myers, a senior from North Branford, Connecticut. Borsa was the first Purdue competitor to copilot an advanced Cirrus SR22 after a decade of the team flying an older, less powerful, manually controlled Piper Warrior II.

Borsa has dreamed of being a pilot since she was 3, and her career goal is to be a pilot at one of the major airlines before moving onto a cargo carrier such as FedEx.

"I'm sure my parents thought I was kidding, but I've been hooked since I took off for the first time in a small plane when I was a high school freshman," Borsa said. "Listen for me on future commercial flights; maybe you will hear Capt. Borsa is flying!"

The Air Race Classic traces its origins to women's-only races that were started by pilots, including Amelia Earhart, who were banned from competing against men. Purdue recruited Earhart to come to the university to encourage female students to pursue nontraditional careers.

The aviators will be supported by a ground crew at Purdue that will constantly monitor weather to calculate the best strategy and path to maximize performance against dozens of teams. The goal is to complete the entire course as quickly as possible, but each team will ultimately be graded on how fast it flew compared to its aircraft's officially rated speed capability.

"Even a 50-foot difference in altitude can make a significant impact on how well the plane performs in an ever-changing environment," said Myers, who headed the ground crew last year and will help navigate the plane with on board electronic gear, including an iPad equipped with mapping and weather apps. 

Writer: Jim Schenke, 765-237-7296, jschenke@purdue.edu

Sources: Rachel Borsa, rborsa@purdue.edu

Haley Myers: Myers112@purdue.edu 

Related websites:

Purdue Air Race Team: https://boilerlink.purdue.edu/organization/purdueairraceteam

Purdue Aviation Technology: https://tech.purdue.edu/departments/aviation-technology 

Note to Journalists: B-roll of the pilots preparing for their flight can be obtained beginning at 8 a.m. and interviews can be arranged. For more information, contact Jim Schenke, Purdue News Service, 765-237-7296 or jschenke@purdue.edu