Registration Opens for 47th Air Race Classic

The race will begin June 18.

Air Race Classic 2024 Map

Along with opening registration for Air Race Classic on January 2, team rules and the race route have been established. [Courtesy: Air Race Classic]

Attention women pilots: if air racing is on your aviation bucket list, here's your chance: registration opens January 2, 2024 for the 47th Air Race Classic (ARC). The event, open to women pilots, will be held June 18-21. The route begins at Southern Illinois Airport (KMDH) in Carbondale, Illinois and ends at Northern Colorado Regional Airport (KFNL), in Loveland, Colorado, a total distance of 2,628 statute miles over 11 states.

The Air Race Class is the oldest race of its kind in the nation, tracing its roots back to the 1929 Women's Air Derby in which 19 women, among them well-known aviatrixes such as Amelia Earhart, Florence "Pancho" Barnes, Ruth Elder, Ruth Nichols, Opal Kunz, Louise Thaden, and Evelyn "Bobbi" Trout, raced from Santa Monica, California to Cleveland, Ohio. 

The women-only race was patterned after the men's transcontinental air race, but some people had trouble accepting the women as racers. Humorist Will Rogers facetiously referred to the event as the "Powder Puff Derby"—despite the fact the women, serious pilots all, had impressive aviation resumes. 

The ARC notes that this year marks the 95th anniversary of that first competition, which was the beginning of women's air racing in the United States.

Requirements for Race Teams

Race rules require each team to consist of at least two female pilots flying normally aspirated, piston-powered airplanes in visual flight conditions during daylight hours. The pilots and copilots must hold at least a private pilot certificate and have a minimum of 100 hours as pilot-in-command. Additionally, one of the crew must have at least 500 hours as pilot-in-command or a current instrument rating. Teams may also include additional female teammates provided they hold at least a student pilot certificate.

The race is described as "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 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.”

How the Race Works

Teams will begin by departing Southern Illinois Airport at 8am on Tuesday, June 18. The aircraft will launch one after another at approximately 60 second intervals. Each plane receives a unique handicap, so teams are racing against their own best time, not against one another.

Race officials note that this creates a level playing field, so slower airplanes can compete against faster ones. Strategy is key, as teams work with the elements, attempting to find the most favorable winds and weather to beat their handicap by the greatest margin. Official standings aren't determined until after the last team has crossed the finish line.

The Route

Intermediate airports along the route are in La Porte Municipal Airport (KPPO) in La Porte, Indiana; Wexford County Airport (KCAD) in Cadillac, Michigan; Newark-Heath Airport (KVTA) in Newark, Ohio; Bult Field Airport (C56) in Monee, Illinois; Owatonna Degner Regional Airport (KOWA) in Owatonna, Minnesota; Omar N. Bradley Airport (KMBY) in Moberly, Missouri; Bartlesville Municipal Airport (KBVO), Bartlesville, Oklahoma; and Dodge City Regional Airport (KDDC) in Dodge City, Kansas.

Teams will execute high-speed flybys over a timing line at each of these intermediate airports, and they have the option to land for fuel, a break, or an overnight stay.

About the Air Race Classic

Air Race Classic Inc. is an all-volunteer, nonprofit 501(c)3 organization. The mission of the ARC is to encourage and educate current female pilots, and increase public awareness about the role of general aviation, and in the process inspire future generations to become pilots, while remembering and honoring the women who paved the way. 

For more information, go to or follow Air Race Classic on Facebook and Instagram.

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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