June 28, 1996
Ninth-place finishes in 1994 and 1995 were considered spectacular for such a young team, and Purdue's flight into the winner's circle is nearly unprecedented, said Mary Ann Eiff, assistant professor of aviation technology and faculty adviser for Purdue Women in Aviation.
"Two years ago, Purdue University became the first collegiate team to enter the Air Race Classic," she said. "We originally entered this race to give our female aviators valuable experience in piloting an aircraft across the country. Winning is a tribute not only to the two women on the team, but also to the entire department and Purdue."
Originally called the "Powder Puff Race," the contest dates back 77 years. Amelia Earhart competed in it, as did many women who were WASPs in World War II.
Nicholson and Battipaglia finished first out of 51 planes entered in the race. Nicholson, a senior in the Department of Aviation Technology from Kailua, Hawaii, and pilot on this year's team, said there were no heroics involved in winning, just good clean racing.
"We didn't have to make any fancy maneuvers or anything like that to win the race," she said. "We just flew like we were taught to fly here at Purdue. Our plane performed wonderfully, and we stuck to our flight plan. I'm still somewhat shocked we actually won."
The race began June 22 in Prescott, Ariz., stopped in seven other states and finished Tuesday (6/25) in Daytona Beach, Fla. Aircraft were required to be stock airplanes with non-supercharged engines of 145 to 570 horsepower. Teams could fly only during daylight hours and good weather, and were required to finish by 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Although it's called a "race," teams don't race against each other. They race against a "handicap" assigned to their plane based on its maximum cruising speed. The goal is to be faster than the handicap, and the winner is the team that beats its handicap by the largest margin.
Purdue was one of three collegiate entries in the race. Although winning is sweet, Battipaglia, a junior in aviation technology from New Windsor, N.Y. , said the experience means just as much.
"We met so many incredible people over the past few days," she said. "Not just other race participants, but people who just came out to meet us. Those are the memories that make this so special. Winning is a bonus, especially when you're competing against women who are airline captains, women who started flying in the 1940s, and women with thousands of hours of flight time. One team had a combined total of nearly 80,000 hours."
Sources: Mary Ann Eiff, (765) 494-9627; home, (765) 449-9804
Lauren T. Nicholson, (765) 743-2218
Jacqueline C. Battipaglia, (765) 495-6190
Writer: Victor B. Herr, (765) 494-2077; Internet, firstname.lastname@example.org
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