2018 Women’s Air Race Classic

News/Press Releases


56 teams will fly across the country this June in historic airplane race

April 5, 2018

The field is set for the 42nd Air Race Classic (ARC), the annual all-women cross-country airplane race. Fifty-six teams, consisting of 121 women pilots from across the country and around the world, will take off at 8 a.m. Tuesday, June 19 from Sweetwater, Texas, for a 2,656-mile sprint across the United States that ends Friday, June 22 in Fryeburg, Maine.

This year, the ARC counts an aviation celebrity among the racers: U.S. national aerobatics champion Debby Rihn-Harvey.

The oldest race of its kind in the nation, the Air Race Classic traces its roots to the 1929 Women’s Air Derby, in which Amelia Earhart and 19 other daring female pilots raced from Santa Monica, California, to Cleveland, Ohio. That contest, aka the Powder Puff Derby, marked the beginning of women’s air racing in the United States. Today, the ARC is the epicenter of women’s air racing, the ultimate test of piloting skill and aviation decision-making for female pilots of all ages and from all walks of life.

“The ARC Board of Directors and volunteers have been hard at work preparing for our 42nd race,” said Air Race Classic President Lara Gaerte. “We look forward to welcoming back veteran racers and meeting new competitors at this year’s Start.”

This year’s course will take racers through 15 states, from the West Texas flatlands, where the Women Airforce Service Pilots trained for military service during World War II, through the American heartland to the pine forests of Maine. Teams will depart beginning at 8 a.m. June 19 from historic Avenger Field, taking off one after another, 30 seconds apart. From there, the field will spread out as faster planes move to the head of the pack.

At each of the eight intermediate stops — Alva, Oklahoma; Beatrice, Nebraska; Faribault, Minnesota; Galesburg, Illinois; Auburn, Indiana; Cadillac, Michigan; Newark, Ohio; and Penn Yan, New York — teams will execute high-speed flybys over a timing line as they race against the clock. Faster planes may cover the course in only two days; slower teams may not arrive at the Terminus, Eastern Slopes Regional Airport, until moments before the arrival deadline at 5 p.m. on June 22.

The 56 teams of two or three pilots will have four days to complete the course, flying normally aspirated, piston-powered airplanes in visual flight conditions during daylight hours. Pilots and copilots must have at least a Private pilot certificate and a minimum of 100 hours as pilot-in-command in order to qualify for the race; one of them must have at least 500 hours as pilot-in-command or a current instrument rating. If they wish, the pilot and copilot may bring along a teammate, who must hold at least a student pilot certificate.

Eighteen colleges or universities are fielding teams: Auburn University, California Aeronautical University, Delaware State University, École Nationale d’Aérotechnique (Quebec), Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Daytona, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Prescott, Indiana State University, Jacksonville University, Kent State University, Lewis University, Liberty University Middle Tennessee State University, Purdue University, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, The Ohio State University, University of Dubuque, University of North Dakota and Western Michigan University. CAU, Delaware State, ENA and Dubuque are participating for the first time.

This year’s racers hail from 35 states and five foreign countries: Australia, Canada, Colombia, Kenya and New Zealand.

For some competitors, the Air Race Classic is a family affair. This year’s field includes two multi-generational teams, with mothers and daughters racing together.

Because each plane receives a unique handicap, teams are racing against their own best time, not against one another. This creates a level playing field, so slower planes can compete against faster aircraft on an equal basis. Teams strategize to play the elements, holding out for better weather or seeking more favorable winds, to beat their handicap by the greatest margin.

Official standings aren’t determined until after the last team has crossed the finish line – the last arrival at the Terminus may, in fact, be the winner!


Air Race Classic Inc. is an all-volunteer, nonprofit 501(c)3 organization with a mission of encouraging and educating current and future female pilots, increasing public awareness of general aviation, demonstrating women’s roles in aviation, and preserving and promoting the tradition of pioneering women in aviation. For more information, go to airraceclassic.org. Follow Air Race Classic on Facebook. On Twitter: @AuthenticARC



About the Stops

Start – Sweetwater, TX (KSWW)

1. Alva, OK (KAVK)

Alva Regional Airport is Stop #1 on the 2018 Air Race Classic route – the busiest stop most likely. So plan accordingly. Vantage Plane Plastics is located on the field. This company is “the GA leader in interior plastics” for your plane. If you’re taking a break in Alva, check it out.  The airport lies just south of downtown Alva. Alva is on the banks of the Salt Fork Arkansas River and is the county seat for Woods County. It is also home to Northwestern Oklahoma State University, which was started in 1897 just four years after Alva was established.  Alva was the site of the first land office south of Kansas when the railroads pushed south and west with the Southern Kansas Railway eventually becoming the historic Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe Railway. One bit of trivia – Don Draper spends time in Alva OK in the next-to-last episode of Mad Men.

2. Beatrice, NE (KBIE)

The vision for Beatrice Municipal Airport began in 1928, and it became reality post-WWII when two runways were laid and hangars were built in the late 1940s. Today, it is a first-class general aviation airport providing top-notch service for pilots and corporate aviation – a vital link for the community and surrounding region. Beatrice was founded in the late 1850s on the banks of the Big Blue River and expanded with the rail lines pushing west and south land claims following the Homestead Act of 1862. The Homestead National Monument of America is located in Beatrice on the site of one of the first land claims filed by Daniel Freeman. The annual Homestead Days Festival will be in full swing when ARC flies through. If you are on the ground in Beatrice, consider exploring the downtown area for its restaurants, shopping and historical architecture.

3. Faribault, MN (KFBL)

Faribault Municipal Airport celebrated its 70th anniversary in 2017. It also honored the life of WASP Liz Wall Strohfus by renaming the airport for this great lady. Welcome to Liz Wall Strohfus Field. Redman Aviation Restoration Enterprises – RARE Aircraft Ltd – is an award-winning family-run company that is based at FBL and nationally recognized for its restoration of antique aircraft. If you’ve got a vintage project in a hangar or on your wishlist, you might want to stop in and talk with the Redmans. Faribault lies about 45 miles south of Minneapolis – St. Paul, just outside the Mode C ring. One of the oldest settlements and predating Minnesota’s inclusion as a U.S. Territory, it started out as a fur trading post. Have you ever taken a ride on a Tilt-A-Whirl at an amusement park or the state fair? The ride was invented by Herbert Sellner in Faribault and debuted at the Minnesota State Fair in 1926.

4. Galesburg, IL (KGBG)

In 2018, Galesburg Municipal Airport will host its 47th Annual National Stearman Fly-In one week after Labor Day. Before that, it will host our stop on the 42nd Annual Air Race Classic in June. Harrel Timmons, Phillip Wolford and the staff at Jet Air Inc. look forward to welcoming ARC racers to Galesburg. This city has a rich railroad history and will be hosting the Galesburg Railroad Days festival the weekend after we fly through – check out the Railroad Museum if you have some time. It has preserved the original site at Knox College where one of the famed Lincoln-Douglas debates took place. Galesburg has a notable history as one of the first anti-slavery societies in Illinois and served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. Author, poet, and historian Carl Sandburg was born here. If you find yourself in downtown Galeburg, don’t forget your photo opportunity in the Big Blue Chair.

5. Auburn, IN (KGWB)

DeKalb County Airport is “The Biggest Little Airport in NE Indiana” and the folks at Century Aviation and the DeKalb County Airport Authority are excited to welcome ARC racers to Auburn. Lara and Tony Gaerte operate Century Aviation, and they strive to offer “big airport amenities with small airport convenience and hospitality.” You will not be disappointed. You will also find the Hoosier Air Museum on the field with special exhibits for the WASP, the Tuskegee Airmen, Gen. Robin Olds, Gen. Claire Chennault, and the Atomic Bomb. Auburn is the “Home of the Classics” honoring its early automotive history starting with the Auburn Automobile Company, which acquired Duesenberg, Lexington, and Lycoming (sound familiar?). Today, you can visit the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum and each year they have a parade of classics at the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival.

6. Cadillac, MI (KCAD)

Wexford County Airport lies in the geographic center of Michigan. “Just a short trip from anywhere, Cadillac is where you get that first ‘Up North Feel’, the forests are bigger, the town more welcoming. Cadillac is a city on the lakes, connected by trails, united by rivers and surrounded by forests, where you get away from it all.” Boating, fishing, hiking, mountain biking, camping, hunting, skiing – it’s all here surrounded by natural beauty. Historically, the area was settled and built on the logging industry. Today, it’s main agricultural industry is Christmas tree farming. You’ll fly over or by Lakes Cadillac and Mitchell on your approach into Wexford…and depending on your altitude and the weather, you may get a nice view of Lake Michigan.

7. Newark, OH (KVTA)

Newark-Heath Airport lies about 30 miles east of Columbus, Ohio’s capital and its largest city. The Aviation Works and airport manager Harold Ware look forward to welcoming racers to their great facility. Newark is home to the Newark Earthworks, a National Historic Landmark, that were constructed over 2,000 years ago by the Hopewell Culture. The Observatory Mound, Observatory Circle and the interconnected Octagon earthworks are massive structures. Research has shown that these structures were used for astronomical observations, markings, and celebrations by the ancient Hopewell culture. Today, Owens Corning Fiberglass is a major industry there, as well as the Longaberger Company, which is known for its handcrafted baskets and other products for your home. Look for the gigantic Longaberger Basket in town. Jerrie Mock is one of Newark’s most famous citizens – she was the first woman to fly solo around the world. In 1964, she flew this trip in her Cessna 180 “The Spirit of Columbus” over 29 days with just 750 hours of flying experience and a newly awarded instrument rating.

8. Penn Yan, NY (KPEO)

Penn Yan Airport is on the shores of Keuka Lake and in the midst of the great Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. The airport is operated by Seneca Flight Operations, part of the Seneca Foods Corporation. Penn Yan Aero operates on the field also – a company well known for its work overhauling Lycoming and Continental engines. It is a family run business for over 70 years!. This area is well-known for its wineries and scenic small towns and lake communities. Penn Yan derived its name from its early settlers who were “Pennsylvanians and Yankees, in equal numbers.” Yankees were New Englanders.

Terminus — Fryeburg, ME (KIZG)