Friday, July 2, 2010

34th Annual Air Race Classic Finished Friday

The 34th Annual Air Race Classic
Here's a PDF with the pilots and their results.

(Click to see full size version)

From The Missourian: Air race, primary, role model
The 34th Annual All Female Air Race Classic finished in Maryland last Friday. Beverly Cleair of Cape Girardeau (who might be the best female pilot/instructor in Missouri) completed the 2,400-mile race along with 51 other pilot teams. Speed achieved by airplane horsepower handicaps was the criteria for winning. The four-day race started in Fort Myers, Fla.

Beverly Cleair had been featured in the Missourian in June 20, 2010

Area woman to compete in 2,400-mile airplane race
Beverly Cleair has been flying in and out of the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport since 1982. When she retired from a career in health care in 2005, she became a flight instructor, teaching pilots in visual and instrument-guided flight.
Cleair said the students she teaches are a diverse group.

"There are some young, college age and even a few very young people that just have an interest and their parents want to see if this interest is legit," she said. "Probably the oldest I've had was over 70."

Over the years, Cleair has taught many students. Each pilot has to fly with an instructor every two years to maintain his or her license.

"They say flight instruction is about 96 percent boredom because you're watching it and 4 percent sheer terror," Cleair said.

On Tuesday, Cleair and her piloting partner Teresa Camp will take on the challenge of the Air Race Classic, a 2,400-mile airplane race that starts in Fort Myers, Fla., and tours through the Midwest before wrapping up four days later in Frederick, Md.

Cleair enjoys giving flying lessons at the Cape Girardeau airport but said she looks forward to the race. This will be her first time participating in the Air Race Classic. Cleair and her partner are flying for Wings of Hope, an organization in St. Louis that flies humanitarian aid to impoverished places around the world.

"I am volunteering for Wings of Hope as a pilot for their medical air transport," Cleair said. "It's the only free air ambulance in the Midwest, and it primarily supports kids who have birth defects or debilitating illnesses that need medical care."

The race prize -- $15,000 for the top finishers -- would benefit Wings of Hope if she and Camp win.

Camp is an engineer at Boeing and has volunteered her skills at restoring airplanes for Wings of Hope.

"I flew in the air race two years ago, and one of the things that is very important to me is who I choose to fly with, because this is pretty intense flying," Camp said. "Sometimes, especially when you first take off or are landing, there is a lot of aircraft in the area, so you have to be very alert. I really choose my partners carefully to make sure that they have strong skills but also good judgment. Bev's among the best. I'm looking forward to flying with her, and it should be a lot of fun."

Women's air racing has a rich history. The First Women's Air Derby had 20 pilots when it started in 1929. After World War II, another race took over, officially called the All Women's Transcontinental Air Race but more widely known as the Powder Puff Derby.

The Powder Puff Derby stopped at the Cape Girardeau airport in 1966. The race was discontinued in 1977, and the Air Race Classic was born. The 2010 race route brings the ladies to Murphysboro, Ill.

This year's race is the 34th annual and boasts big numbers and a diverse array of planes. It has nearly 60 planes registered, each manned by two female pilots.

"Every airplane is given a handicap, because you will have some very fast airplanes (multiengine planes) and then very slow airplanes, so each is handicapped according to how well it can perform according to the manufacturer's standards," Cleair said. "Each leg is timed, and then it's adjusted for your handicap, so there are winners of the legs and winners of the entire race."

The two ladies will fly a Cessna 182 single-engine plane. Camp said the lineup of pilots is just as diverse as the planes themselves.

"I know the year I flew, the oldest pilot was 92 years old," she said. "I got to meet a woman by the name of Margaret Ringenberg who was a World War II WASP [Women Airforce Service Pilots], and I got to chat with her while we waited for some weather to clear."

With four days to finish the race, Cleair and Camp said they must stay focused.

"There are eight legs; typically they're about 300 miles," Camp said. "In the [Cessna] 182, we ought to be able to do it in about two hours. It just depends on if you get a favorable head or tail wind."

In addition to the actual race of 2,400 miles, Camp said that the event is quite a haul.

"When you start adding in the flight to get down to Florida and the flight home from Maryland, it will be over 4,000 miles," she said.

Cleair said it's important to remember the team behind the pilots. "Often pilots of airplanes get the attention, but there are so many people behind us. They're the people who do the book work, the mechanics, the linemen that fuel, the people that support us with rental planes to give instruction in and the tower people who direct us. Aviation is a real team experience in itself."

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