Two Purdue female undergrads race small airplane across country

June 22, 2010

Purdue Air Race Classic team captain Lauren Steele talks to her ground control crew as she prepares for the 2,500-mile cross country race first flown by Amelia Earhart and her fellow aviatrixes in 1929. (Purdue News Service photo/Jim Schenke)

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — A pair of Purdue female undergraduates will begin a 2,500-mile cross-country air race on Tuesday (June 22) in Fort Myers, Fla.

The Air Race Classic was first staged in 1929 as the First Women's Air Derby by Amelia Earhart and other women pilots. During the "Golden Era of Aviation," women were not allowed to compete with men.

Purdue captain Lauren Steele of Lapel, Ind., and co-pilot Allison Springer, Madison Wis. will compete against 54 other teams that will travel across the South and through the Midwest before heading east to the finish line in Frederick, Maryland. Competitors from around the world range in age from 18 to 92. Eleven of the teams are comprised of college students.

Each team is given a handicap to accommodate for the capabilities of its airplane. The Purdue student pilots will race in a Piper Warrior III, which typically cruises at about 120 mph. The three-day event includes stops in Waycross, Ga.; Tuscaloosa, Ala.; Hot Springs, Ark.; Cameron, Mo.; Murphysboro, Ill., Elkhart, Ind., and Parkersburg, W.Va..

Purdue Air Race Classic team copilot Allison Springer prepares to load maps that will help her navigate her small airplane in the 2,500-mile race first flown by Amelia Earhart and her cohorts in 1929. (Purdue News Service photo/Jim Schenke)

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Purdue's team departed June 13 from the same Purdue hangar from which Amelia Earhart left for her around-the-world flight in 1937. After a visit to main sponsor Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, Texas, the team traveled the length of the Gulf of Mexico coast to settle in for several days of race preparations in Florida. A team of students will continue providing daily ground control support for the team from facilities at the Purdue University Airport, the first university-owned airport in the nation.

The team is blogging about its adventure on its Facebook page, Purdue Air Race Team. A photo gallery, slide show, and video of the team's departure are available at ftp://news69.uns.purdue/Public/Air Race Classic 2010  

Writer: Jim Schenke, 765-237-7296, 

Sources: Lauren Steele, (765) 639-1919,

Related Web sites:
Purdue Aviation Technology

Note to Journalists: Broadcast-quality B-Roll. sound bites, and package of the Purdue team departing for the race can be downloaded from ftp://news69.uns.purdue/Public/Air Race Classic 2010. A YouTube video is available at For more information, contact Jim Schenke, Purdue News Service, 765- 237-7296, 765-494-6262 or