Friday, March 5, 2010

The 1947 Powder Puff Derby

The first Powder Puff Derby Race took place in 1929, and featured 20 pilots including Amelia Earhart, Louise Thaden, Ruth Nichols, Marvel Crosson, Pancho Barnes, and so on. It was held in conjunction with the National Air Races being held in Cleveland that year.

There was no such race held the next year.

In 1935, women were allowed to compete against the men in the Bendix Trophy Race. In 1936, Louise Thaden and Blanche Noyes won this race.

During WWII, of course all air racing stopped.

After the war, the Powder Puff Derby race was revived.

The 1947 race perhaps doesn't really count, as only two teams participated. The race began in Palm Springs, California and ended in Tampa, Florida. It was termed the Amelia Earhart Memorial Derby.

The Florida Chapter of the Ninety-Nines, full of WASP, founded the Florida All-Woman Air Show and invited races to terminate in Tampa as part of the show.

Unfortunately, further details were not sent out, so that when the time came, only two entries from the California Ninety-Nines began the race. Mardo Crane was the chairwoman of the race.

Dianna Bixby was to fly her military A-26 bomber and Caroline West, with co-pilot Bea Medes, flew a Eurocoupe.

As it turned out, Bixby had engine problems and never even got started, but West and Medes completed the entire journey. It took 21 hours and 45 mintues. It was only when they touched down in Tampa that they learned that Bixby had never started.

From this inauspicious beginning, the Powder Puff Derby began and would run for 30 years (with one miss in 1973 due to the oil shortage), with the final race taking place in 1977.

At its height, over 100 women would take part in the race each year.

After the Powder Puff Derby (more officially known as the All-Women's Transcontinental Air Race (AWTAR) ended, a scaled-down all-women's race was intorduced called the Air Race Classic.

The 2010 Air Race Classic, or ARC, will take place from June 22 - 25, 2010, from Fort Myers, FL to Frederick, MD.

Award-wise, the Air Race Classic started in 1977 with an $8,550 purse for the top-ten crews, with additional leg prizes for those finishing outside the selected group of ten. The awards have been increased over the years, so that the current top-ten purse is $15,000.

In 1947, Carolyn West and Beatrice Medes, who only participated in this race out of all of them, flew from Palm Springs to Tucson, AZ, Tucson to El Paso, TX, El Paso to Dallas, Dallas to Shewveport, LA, Sheveport to Monroeville, Al, Monroeville to Cross City, FL, Cross City to Dunellen, and Dunellen to Tampa.

The winners were awarded trophies and cash to cover their gas and oil for the round trip back to California.

The start committee had consisted of Mardo Crane, Dee Thurmond, Irma "Babe" Story, and Helen Hooper Moore.

1 comment:

roseduncan said...

I've been thinking about this for my novel. You can find me at
I spend a lot of time with Amelia Earhart lately. And I have been keeping up with your blog as well. Common interests.