Purdue students embark on women's cross-country air race

June 18, 2012

Purdue student pilots Chantel Steele, at right, and Amanda Keck will fly a nearly 3000-mile course from Arizona to Ohio during the 2012 Air Race Classic. (Purdue University photo/Andrew Hancock)

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Two female Purdue University students will take off Tuesday (June 19) from Lake Havasu, Ariz., in a small plane for a three-day race that crisscrosses the country before finishing in Batavia, Ohio.

Captain Chantel Steele, a recent graduate from Iron Mountain, Mich., is returning to the women-only Air Race Classic after serving as co-pilot in a thunderstorm-battered 2011 race.

"This year's route takes us through the mountains, so it is a little bit more dangerous," said Steele, who expects to contend with heat up to 114 degrees in Arizona. "This race is about empowering women - it's a liberating experience. You can see the world from a different perspective from the air."

Co-pilot Amanda Keck, a junior from Crown Point, Ind., is looking forward to flying in the race that traces its heritage to Amelia Earhart and her pioneering contemporaries.

"The first time I flew … I just loved it. When I went to the airport and saw the pilots, I looked up to them and wanted to do that," Keck said. "Even though the girls are showing themselves well in the flight area, it is still very dominated by men."

Both women studied to be pilots in the College of Technology's flight technology program. They and their ground crew have been preparing for the 2,700-mile journey for months. The race gives them real-world experience, further preparing them for a career in aviation. They will be competing with women who have flown for decades.

"Purdue's a very good flight school, so I've definitely gotten all my training that's necessary to fly," Keck said. "It should be pretty fun. As long as we do what we were taught to do we will be fine."

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

Sources: Chantel Steele, steelece@purdue.edu

                  Amanda Keck, akeck@purdue.edu

Note to Journalists:  Broadcast-quality B-roll and sound bites are available. For more information, contact Jim Schenke, Purdue News Service, at 765-237-7296, jschenke@purdue.edu

Related website:
Purdue Aviation Technology