Monday, November 19, 2012

Indiana: Air race pilots will visit MC airport

This actually happened on Saturday, Aug 17, but I thought I'd share it anyway.

From the News  Air race pilots will visit MC airport

MICIGAN CITY — Janice Welsh and Margaret Wint, two pilots who participated in the annual, all-female Air Race Classic (ARC), will be at the Michigan City Airport on Saturday, Nov. 17 at 10:30 a.m. to speak about their experiences participating in the June 2012 race.

The ARC is part of a national tradition that began back in 1929 with the First Women's Air Derby, which involved 20 women pilots, who raced from Santa Monica, Calif. to Cleveland, Ohio.

"Historically, the women were originally racing with the men, but began winning and... were banned, so the women had no choice but to initiate their own race," Welsh said. "Amelia Earhart, Louise Thaden and Phoebe Omalie were some of the earliest of the female racers."

Female racing continued through the 1930s and beyond with the All Women's Transcontinental Air Race (AWTAR), which was eventually discontinued in 1977, when the tradition was taken up by the ARC.

Welsh, who is from La Porte, and Wint, who is from Grand Rapids, Mich., both belong to Ninety-Nines, Inc., an International Organization of Women Pilots, and they met through the organization's local Indiana Dunes chapter.

When they are not flying, Welsh is an independent beauty consultant with Mary Kay and a speech-language pathologist, and Wint helps manage the local airport in Ionia, Mich.

Welsh said she learned to fly at the Porter County Airport in Valparaiso with her husband because they "wanted to be able to get to Pennsylvania to visit family quicker than driving."

As the first race for both pilots, Welsh said it tested their skills as pilots and their ability to fly as a team.

"I have flown for 20 years with my husband and we always determine before each trip, who is PIC, pilot in command, and who runs the radios, navigates, etc.," Welsh said. "Early on, I became responsible for getting a daily weather briefing and mapping our route each day. Maybe 85 percent of the teams used iPads for their navigating. We used all paper maps. Margaret was designated PIC, but there were times when it would take two of us to get the plane down to the 200 feet off the deck for the flyby, because at full-throttle, the plane is going at a very fast speed, [and] ...we had to watch that we didn't red-line the airspeed."

The ARC changes its route every year. In 2012, the race was 2,600 miles long and started in Lake Havasu, Ariz. and included flybys in New Mexico, Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Michigan, before ending in Batavia, Ohio.

Unlike most races, the winner of the ARC is not always the first to cross the finish line; rather, pilots are given a handicapped speed, and their goal is to have their flying speed exceed the actual ground speed by as much as possible.

Welsh and Wint finished in second to last place, but Welsh was upbeat about the outcome.

"They always say if you finish this race, you are a winner; so we were happy to be finishers," Welsh said.

On Saturday, Welsh and Wint will talk more about their experiences in the race, share photos and tell how they prepared for it. Hopefully, Welsh said, they will encourage other young women to consider the challenge of becoming a pilot.

To learn more about the history of the ARC, visit


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