June 14, 2017

Two Purdue teams to compete in the annual Air Race Classic

2017 Air Race McCarty-Harvey Pilot Mary McCarty, left, and co-pilot Alyssa Harvey are one of two teams from Purdue University participating in this year’s Air Race Classic cross-country flying competition. (Purdue University photo/Chris Konecnik) Download image

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Two teams from Purdue University will compete in the 41st annual Air Race Classic women’s cross-country competition for the first time in more than a decade.

Mary McCarty, a senior from Wilmington, Ohio, and her co-pilot Alyssa Harvey, a junior from Crown Point, Indiana, are representing Purdue, keeping with a 20-year tradition for the university. Both are in the Professional Flight program at Purdue.

Joining them this year, however, is a second team with some international flair. Pilot Nicoletta Fala, a native of Cyprus and a doctorate student in the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and co-pilot Chloé de Perre, a chemist in the Department of Agronomy and native of France, are representing the on-campus Purdue Pilots, Inc. The team is sponsored by the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

This is Fala’s fifth year flying and she looks at the race as very challenging. A video is available at https://youtu.be/ROJbkx3uWFE.

 “I think I’ve always been interested in flying since being in aeronautics and astronautics,” Fala said. “I had this opportunity so I looked at it as either do it now or never.”

McCarty was a co-pilot in last year’s entry representing Purdue and Fala said her fellow flying club member has been very helpful in answering all of her questions.

“A lot of it is just understanding about how high-stress and high work load it is,” she said. “When you get that intense, there’s so much happening that you kind of snip back and forth. Then you get on the ground and it’s like nothing ever happened.”

Two teams also represented Purdue in the 2005 Air Race Classic.

The race route is chosen to challenge racers with a variety of learning opportunities. One obstacle on the minds of both pilots this year is the prevailing winds they’ll be flying into with an east-to-west race.

“It should be interesting because the prevailing winds across the country are from the west,” Harvey said. “We just have to try to handle the head winds better than everyone else.”

Despite the challenge of the race, Fala said taking to the skies is a release for her.

“Once you’re in the plane, it’s competitive,” Fala said. “But when you’re not in the plane, everybody is willing to go out of their way to help you.”

More than 100 women in 52 planes are participating in this year’s race which begins Tuesday (June 20) in Frederick, Maryland. Contestants will fly more than 2,600 miles this year, landing at New Mexico’s Santa Fe Municipal Airport by 5 p.m. June 23. The Air Race Classic follows a different route every year.

The event is not your standard race. Each plane receives a unique time handicap prior to the race. The team that beats its handicap by the largest margin wins.

Part of the race preparation is getting to know one another. Before June, McCarty and Harvey had never flown together.

“You’d think it’d be weird, but since we’re all trained the same way it’s not,” McCarty said, adding she’s familiar with Harvey from the Professional Flight program.

“A lot of it is just understanding about how high-stress and high work load it is,” she said. “When you get that intense, there’s so much happening that you kind of snip back and forth. Then you get on the ground and it’s like nothing ever happened.”

2017 Air Race Nicoletta-Chloe Pilot Nicoletta Fala, right, and co-pilot Chloé de Perre stand in front of the plant the duo will fly in the upcoming Air Race Classic cross-country flying competition. (Purdue University photo/ Geoffrey Andrews) Download image

The race route is chosen to challenge racers with a variety of learning opportunities. One obstacle on the minds of both pilots this year is the prevailing winds they’ll be flying into with an east-to-west race.

“It should be interesting because the prevailing winds across the country are from the west,” Harvey said. “We just have to try to handle the head winds better than everyone else.”

Despite the challenge of the race, Fala said taking to the skies is a release for her.

“Just being in the air is so freeing,” she said. “I think for me, it the fact that you leave all the stress on the ground. Once you take off you forget about everything else. It’s just about flying – you and the airplane.”

Both entries into the Air Race Classic are comprised of two parts, starting with the pilot and co-pilot.

In addition, a ground crew works to give racers the best and fastest route for their journey. Crew members analyze weather conditions, including winds and front locations, as well as forecasts and hazardous weather. The crew also calculates fuel burn and helps with decisions on whether to try flying the next leg of the race or wait for better weather.

About the Air Race Classic

The first race took place in 1929, originally called the Women’s Air Derby and included a field of 20 women pilots that included Amelia Earhart, who would later join the faculty at Purdue University. That race flew from Santa Monica, California, to the Cleveland Air Races in Ohio. The All Women's Transcontinental Air Race (Powder Puff Derby) was formed in 1948 and ran until 1977. The ARC ran its first race in 1977 with a 2,400-mile race from Santa Rosa, California, to Toledo, Ohio, and is the longest running air race in the U.S. 

Writer: Brian L. Huchel, 765-494-2084, bhuchel@purdue.edu  

Sources: Nicoletta Fala, 765-518-6598, nfala@purdue.edu

Chloé de Perre, 305-975-3529, cdeperre@purdue.edu

Mary McCarty, 937-728-8618, mccart40@purdue.edu

Alyssa Harvey, 219-671-8700, amharvey@purdue.edu

Note to Journalists: Broadcast-quality B-roll and photos are available at https://goo.gl/7DGzy4 and https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BxdPFMVWz-l2QkRuc09NOFR4SXc. Footage was shot by Purdue Marketing and Media and the College of Engineering.

Purdue University, 610 Purdue Mall, West Lafayette, IN 47907, (765) 494-4600

© 2015-17 Purdue University | An equal access/equal opportunity university | Copyright Complaints | Maintained by Office of Strategic Communications

Trouble with this page? Disability-related accessibility issue? Please contact News Service at purduenews@purdue.edu.