Air Race Classic Announces 2024 Route

Women pilots will race from Carbondale, Illinois, to Loveland, Colorado from June 18-21.

The race will run June 18-21 from Carbondale, Illinois, to Loveland, Colorado. [Courtesy: Air Race Classic]

Ladies, get out your plotters and E6-Bs. The route for the 2024 Air Race Classic has been announced.

On June 18 women pilots from around the world will be launching from Southern Illinois Airport (KSIA) in Carbondale on a 2,628 sm flight covering 11 states and ending on June 21 at Northern Colorado Regional Airport (KFNL) in Loveland. The route changes every year and includes eight or nine timing points for the race that stresses piloting skill and aviation decision-making over speed.

The Air Race Classic (ARC), the oldest event of its kind, traces its roots back to 1929 when it was known as the Women's Air Derby in which 20 pilots took off from Clover Field in Santa Monica, California, and headed east toward Cleveland. The competitors included some famous aviatrixes of the day such as Amelia Earhart, Florence “Pancho”" Lowe Barnes, Louise Thanden, Ruth Elder, Louise Thaden, and Eveyn “Bobby” Trout.

The first race, known as the All-Woman Transcontinental Air Race, was covered extensively by the media. Humorist Will Rogers jokingly called it the “Powder Puff Derby,” a name that stuck. The race was envisioned as a transcontinental speed competition for women pilots.

The annual event was grounded during World War II and not resurrected until 1947. It was discontinued in 1977, but Air Race Classic Ltd. swooped in to continue the tradition of women's air racing.

In essence, women's air racing celebrated two milestones this year.

“The ARC board of directors and volunteers have been hard at work preparing for our 47th race,” said Air Race Classic president Donna Harris. “We look forward to celebrating the 95th anniversary of the Women's Air Derby as we welcome back veteran racers and meet new competitors at our start in Carbondale, Illinois.”

The race has evolved from a speed run to a test of skill and decision-making. Teams will launch from Southern Illinois Airport at 8 a.m. CST on June 18, taking off one after another approximately 60 seconds apart.

As the race continues the field will spread out as faster airplanes move ahead. Racers will have their own strategy for completing the route that includes La Porte, Indiana; Cadillac, Michigan; Newark, Ohio; Monee, Illinois; Owatonna, Minnesota; Moberly, Missouri; Bartlesville, Oklahoma; and Dodge City, Kansas. Teams will either execute high-speed flybys over a timing line at each of these intermediate airports, or they may also land for fuel, a break, or an overnight stay. The race ends in Loveland, Colorado, on June 21 at 5 p.m.

According to race organizers, the faster airplanes may complete the route in only two days.

The race teams consist of at least two female pilots flying normally aspirated, piston-powered airplanes in daylight VFR conditions. Pilots and copilots must have at least a private pilot certificate and a minimum of 100 hours as pilot in command (PIC) to qualify for the race. In addition, one of the crew must have at least 500 hours as PIC or a current instrument rating. Teams may include additional female teammates who must hold at least a student pilot certificate. 

Each airplane receives a unique handicap, so it is racing against its own best time, not against the other airplanes. It becomes an exercise in flight planning as teams seek out the most favorable winds to beat their handicap by the greatest margin. Official standings are determined after all the aircraft have crossed the finish line.

Air Race Classic Inc. is an all-volunteer, nonprofit 501(c)3 organization. Its mission is to encourage and educate current and future female pilots and increase public awareness of general aviation, demonstrating women's roles in aviation, and preserving and promoting the tradition of pioneering women in aviation.

More information on the race can be found here.

You can also follow Air Race Classic on Facebook or on Instagram: @airraceclassicinc

Meg Godlewski has been an aviation journalist for more than 24 years and a CFI for more than 20 years. If she is not flying or teaching aviation, she is writing about it. Meg is a founding member of the Pilot Proficiency Center at EAA AirVenture and excels at the application of simulation technology to flatten the learning curve. Follow Meg on Twitter @2Lewski.

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