The LeTourneau Aviation Ladies want to showcase who we are as a University and what we fly. We will go into this competition foremost with the intent of bringing honor to our God. We want to participate in a manner that brings glory to our God and our Christ-like character to be evident in how we plan, prepare, and compete in this event. We also want our ingenuity and competency as a collegiate flight program to be showcased. We intend to represent both the quality and uniqueness of LeTourneau's flight program. Sending two teams to compete will give us a stronger presence in the race and make us more competitive with other institutions of similar caliber.
The Air Race Classic is an annual all women's air race approximately 2,400 miles in length. The competition objective is to fly the "perfect cross country." Each aircraft is given a "handicap" ground speed. The contestants who beat their personal handicap by the largest margin win. Through the years more universities have started participating, and there is now a collegiate division within the race. The theme of the 2016 race is "Collegiate Aviation." The race course goes between the home airports of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Prescott, AZ and Daytona Beach, FL).
I've been around airplanes since I was a little girl. Somewhere around the age of 7 while sitting in a terminal at JFK, I noticed a female airline pilot. I was shocked to see her. Female airline pilots were rare in the mid 80s. Her co-pilot stripes glistened in the light as she walked across the terminal and I could not help but stare. The world stood still for a moment when our eyes locked, and then she was gone. At the age of 20 I decided to become a pilot. I completed my degree at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 2004 and have held several aviation jobs since graduating, but I always come back to flight instructing because that is where my heart is.
A little over four years ago my husband and I moved to Longview, Texas so I could instruct at LeTourneau University. One of the first students I met was Rebecca Davidson. She told me she decided to become a pilot because it was a more practical career option than driving race cars. I watched Rebecca grow and mature as she went from a student pilot to a commercial pilot and now a flight instructor.
I met Amanda Scott a semester or two after I met Rebecca. I've watched Amanda navigate through her various courses to find her area of interest within the maintenance side of aviation. She's worked hard to grow herself through internships and having flown with her I can attest to her ability to nail crosswind landings.
Gaby Soto came into the program several years ago. On her first day here she told me that she'd never even ridden in an airplane before, but that she was going to become a pilot because her big brothers told her that she couldn't do it. Gaby showed her brothers not too long ago when she earned her commercial pilot's certificate and I strongly suspect those brothers will be eating their words for years to come.
Claire Cassel came to us last semester. She earned her private certificate as a teen and has a heart for missions work. I see her brush past in the mornings headed to her flight block and now I am quietly watching her because like the others, I know over the next several years I will watch a young lady blossom.
Ladies stand out around here as there are only a handful in our flight program. We support each other in various ways. LeTourneau welcomes us and helps us find our niche. We want to stand out as competent and skillful pilots, not just because we are ladies. The Air Race Classic strikes my heart because it is an all-women's race. This gives us the platform to compete where we will stand out based on who we are as people and how we plan and execute our skillset during the race. I've grown to love the LeTourneau flight program and our students over the years and I see this as an opportunity to put LeTourneau University's female pilots and their skillset on the map within the aviation community.
This is a big endeavor. To be competitive I need resources that I am hesitant to ask for. It will cost about $13,000 to take these women and compete in this race. We need sponsors to help us get there. Would you please consider sponsoring this wonderful group of women in this year's Air Race Classic?