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LETU Female Pilots to Race Across U.S. In Annual Air Race Classic


LeTourneau University aviation students will compete this summer in the annual, all-female Air Race Classic, covering about 2,400 miles across the country from Arizona to California. This year's race theme is Collegiate Aviation, and LeTourneau University is entering two race teams in the race.

The Air Race Classic, founded in 1929 by Amelia Earhart and 19 other pilots as the First Women's Air Derby originally ran from Santa Monica, California to Cleveland, Ohio. Now the epicenter of women's air racing, the Air Race Classic draws pilots from ages 17 to 90.

Three LETU students and two flight instructors will make up two teams:

Texas Tailwinds Gold team pilot Amanda Scott of Winfield, Ill., and co-pilot flight instructor Lee Foster of Longview and teammate Claire Cassel of Fernandia Beach, Fla., will fly LETU's new Top Hawk airplane, a brand new Cessna 172S Skyhawk on loan from Textron Aviation in partnership with Cessna Aircraft Company, Garmin, and Bose.

Texas Tailwinds Blue team pilot Gabriela "Gaby" Soto of El Paso, Texas, and co-pilot flight instructor Rebecca Davidson of McKinney, Texas, will fly one of LETU's American Champion Aircraft Citabria tailwheel aircraft.

More than 100 women pilots generally compete each year. Each team will depart this year from Prescott, Ariz., on June 21, 2016 on a course that will take them to stops in Albuquerque, N.M.; Midland, Texas; Waco, Texas; Arkadelphia, Ark.; Warrensburg, Mo.; Champaign/Urbana, Ill.; Murfreesboro, Tenn., and Americus, Ga., before landing in Daytona Beach, Fla., by the race arrival deadline June 24.

Every stop is at or near a renowned college or university aviation program this year, making flight education a particular focus of this year's race, according to organizers.

The competition objective is to fly the "perfect cross country." Each aircraft is given a "handicap" groundspeed. 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. Last year's LETU team placed 9th in the collegiate division in the first year the LETU ladies participated in the race.

The LETU teams are currently raising an estimated $13,000 it will cost to compete in this race, including entry fees, fuel and travel expenses. Encore Multimedia President and CEO Dean Waskowiak has provided an initial generous gift. Other sponsorships are available by contacting Laura Laster at (903) 233-4265 or online at http://bit.ly/AirRaceDonate.

"The LeTourneau Aviation Ladies want to showcase who we are as a university and what we fly," said LETU Director of Flight Operations Laura Laster. "We also want our ingenuity and competency as a collegiate flight program to be demonstrated. The Cessna Top Hawk partnership allows us to race an amazing airplane in this year's race - a brand new Cessna 172S Skyhawk, and that gives our team a great advantage with top notch racing equipment."

Lee Foster, flight instructor for LeTourneau University and one of the participants in this year's race, described LETUs participation in the race.

"We intend to represent both the quality and uniqueness of LeTourneau's flight program," Foster said. "We will go into this competition foremost with the intent of bringing honor and glory to God. Our student's training will be evident in how we plan, prepare, and compete in this event. 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."

LETU Dean of the School of Aviation and Aeronautical Science Fred Ritchey says that only about 6 percent of pilots are women, and the school hopes to increase that percentage.

"Young women like these are pilots with vision and purpose," Ritchey said. "They inspire more young women to believe for themselves that the sky's the limit."

For more info on the Air Race Classic, visit: AirRaceClassic.org. The airplanes will be outfitted with GPS tracking devices which will enable friends and supporters to follow the team's progress. LETU team information and updates are available on their Facebook fan page, which will be updated with tracking information once the race begins on June 21.

About the Air Race Classic
Air Race Classic, Inc. is an all-volunteer, nonprofit 501(c)3 organization with a mission of encouraging and educating current and future women pilots, increasing public awareness of general aviation, demonstrating women's roles in aviation, and preserving and promoting the tradition of pioneering women in aviation.

About LeTourneau University
LeTourneau University is the premier polytechnic university in the nation where educators engage students to nurture Christian virtue, develop competency and ingenuity in their professional fields, integrate faith and work, and serve the local and global community. The LETU aviation program is the only comprehensive university-level aviation program in the state of Texas. LETU offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs across a range of disciplines and delivery models at LETU's residential campus in Longview, Texas, and in hybrid and fully online options at centers in Dallas and Houston. Claiming every workplace in every nation as their mission field, LeTourneau University graduates are professionals of ingenuity and Christ-like character who see life's work as a holy calling with eternal impact. For additional information, visit www.letu.edu.

About the Pilots

Amanda Scott is a senior majoring in Aviation Maintenance Science with an Electrical Concentration. She spent last summer on an internship with Textron Aviation as a Customer Service Engineer, and she will head back to Textron Aviation as an Avionics and Electrical Systems Engineer after graduation in May 2016. She has been a private pilot for nearly five years.

Gaby Soto came to LETU having never ridden in an airplane before, but wanted to be a pilot because her big brothers told her she couldn't do it. She earned her commercial pilot's certificate and showed them she had the right stuff! She is from El Paso, TX and plans to work after graduation in May 2016 with the goal of one day working as a corporate pilot.

Claire Cassel earned her private certificate as a teenager with a heart for missions work. She is from Fernandia Beach, FL and plans to join a missions aviation organization and serve isolated peoples overseas as a pilot and mechanic. The challenge of aviation drew her to learn to fly at a young age, and she loves seeing God's creation in all its beauty from above!

Lee Foster of Longview, a certified flight instructor, is a 2004 graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University who has held several aviation jobs since getting her degree, but she always comes back to flight instructing, because it's where here heart is. She has been around airplanes since she was a child. She remembers sitting in a terminal at JFK airport when she saw her first female airline pilot, a rarity in the mid-80s. She says the world stood still for a moment when their eyes locked and she was gone, but a little girl knew then that the sky was an open door.

Rebecca Davidson of McKinney, a certified flight instructor, is a May 2015 graduate of LETU's School of Aviation, and competed as a student in the Air Race Classic last year. Rebecca grew up overseas as an Air Force brat. Moving from Panama to New Mexico to Italy--the constant was the airplanes around her. By the time her family was settled in North Texas, just before her freshman year in high school, Rebecca saw her future in aviation. She earned her A&P mechanic certificate and her commercial single and multiengine pilot certificate both through LETU. What would she like to tell other young aviators? She'd like to tell them that nothing is out of reach.

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