June 9, 2005
Aviation past, future fly high at Purdue for Air Race Classic
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. More than 80 female pilots will converge on Purdue University later this month for the country's longest running women-only air race.
The 2005 Air Race Classic, which will begin and end at the Purdue University Airport, also will feature activities that honor both the first generation of female pilots and the young women who are preparing to enter the field.
The race will take place June 21-24 and will include stops at eight other airports throughout the Midwest and South. Winners will be announced June 26.
"This year's Air Race Classic is more than a race," said Keri Wiznerowicz, a graduate student in aviation technology who is overseeing the organization of the race. "It is a chance for the next generation of aviation leaders today's students to pay tribute to the generation of pilots who paved the way for them. If these women had not fought for the great accomplishments they made, none of us would be where we are today. We owe them a tremendous thank you."
This year's race will feature 41 teams of pilots, including 5 college teams. The 2,455 nautical mile race includes stops in Winona, Minn.; Beatrice, Neb.; Bartlesville, Okla.; Shreveport, La.; Walnut Ridge, Ark.; Tullahoma, Tenn.; Ohio University in Athens, Ohio; and Frankfort, Ind.
The Air Race Classic began in 1929 as the All Women's Transcontinental Air Race and has involved such pioneers as Amelia Earhart who would later join the staff at Purdue Bobbie Trout and Ruth Elder. The early races were major spectator events, and attendees included such celebrity aviators as Howard Hughes and Wiley Post.
"When the race began, there was a debate about how much horsepower women pilots should even be allowed to have when they flew," Wiznerowicz said. "In 1929 women had never before been allowed to take part in an air race. Today, women still account for a small minority of the people in aviation, but without the women who flew in the first race and other women who pushed the boundaries, we would not have the opportunities we have today."
In addition to the race, pilots who were members of the Women's Airforce Service Pilots will be honored at a banquet before the race, and at least one of these women who flew supplies during World War II will compete in the race.
Thomas Q. Carney, professor and head of Purdue's Department of Aviation Technology, said events like the Air Race Classic help encourage more girls and women to consider aviation as a career choice.
"This race helps connect earlier generations of pilots with young people who are making choices and planning careers," Carney said. "It helps expose young people to role models they can look to as examples of what they can accomplish in aviation. These women are not just role models for girls and women, but, in a larger sense, for all of us who pursue excellence as aviators."
As part of the events surrounding the Air Race Classic and recognition of the early pioneers of flight, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics will name the Purdue Airport a historical site during a private ceremony at 4 p.m. on June 25. The recognition not only honors the airport, but also Purdue's unique position among universities in the history of flight and aviation education, Carney said.
"Throughout the nearly 102-year history of powered flight, Purdue alumni, faculty and staff have played an integral role in essentially every step in the growth of aviation," he said. "Serving as host to the Air Race Classic will bring Purdue yet another connection to the history and evolution of aviation."
While Wiznerowicz has led the organization of this year's race, more than 50 Purdue students have worked on the planning committee, and a large number of students have volunteered to help during the race.
"We are able to come full circle this year, from the earliest aviation pioneers to the students who are just entering the field," Wiznerowicz said. "The extreme interest from the students shows how important it is for them to honor those who came before them and to be a part of the growing history of aviation the race represents."
Purdue's aviation technology department sponsored the first all-student team to participate in the race, and Purdue teams have competed in the Air Race Classic for the past 10 years. A Purdue team finished first in 1996, becoming the only college team to have won the competition. Based partly on Purdue's success, the race now awards the College Challenge Trophy to the top-placing collegiate team.
In the 2004 race, the Purdue team of then-juniors Allison Martin, of Indianapolis, and Kristina Lukas, of Park Ridge, Ill., placed 11th and were the third highest placing collegiate team.
This year Purdue will sponsor two teams made up of Lukas; Katherine Conrad, a sophomore from Cincinnati; Sarah Andersen, a junior from Wabash, Ind.; and Kirstin Korkus, a sophomore from Mount Prospect, Ill.
The race isn't won by speed or by the size and power of a team's aircraft. Teams win based on the efficiency and accuracy they exhibit in every aspect of the race. Teams are rated based on their performance compared to their airplane's handicap. Because of the nature of the scoring, it is impossible to gauge a team's performance in relation to other teams until the competition is over.
Writer: Matt Holsapple, (765) 494-2073, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sources: Thomas Q. Carney, (765) 494-9954, email@example.com
Keri Wiznerowicz, (765) 494-2331, firstname.lastname@example.org
Libby Woelfert, Air Race Classic planning committee member, (765) 860-0683 (cell)
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; email@example.com
Note to Journalists: Journalists can attend any events and interviews with participants and winners can be arranged by contacting Matt Holsapple at (765) 494-2073, firstname.lastname@example.org. Purdue teams will post a daily blog of their trip. Those blogs and other information about the Air Race Classic will be online. The media also can attend the Take Off Banquet at 7 p.m. June 19 at the Purdue Airport. During the banquet, members of the World War II Women Airforce Service Pilots and pilots from some of the first Powder Puff Derby air races will be recognized.
A publication-quality photo is available at http://news.uns.purdue.edu/images/+2005/wiznerowicz-airrace.jpg
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