WMU News

Severe weather ends Air Race in Kansas

June 28, 2001

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. -- Severe weather has forced an early end to the 2001 Air Race Classic. The race was halted in Pratt, Kan., where the WMU team of Michelle Homister and Jo-Elle Warner has been grounded since Tuesday evening (July 26) because of severe thunderstorms.

Richard Wright, dean of the College of Aviation, reported, "They stopped the race in Pratt, Kan., because the weather fronts were too bad. They will calculate the race results based on San Diego to Pratt. We were the first plane there, but are not first in the race because of the handicaps."

The race was originally slated to finish in Batavia, Ohio, about 2,200 miles from the San Diego starting point. It was halted in Pratt, after about 1,500 miles or about two-thirds of the original race course.

Wright said the race results will not be revealed until the Sunday banquet, which is still expected to be held in Batavia.

The race is made up of two-woman teams of all ages from all over the nation. They pilot fixed-wing aircraft and can fly only during daylight hours under VFR (visual flight rules) conditions. Since many types of planes are allowed to race, each airplane is given a handicap in ground speed and the goal is to earn points by surpassing that speed. Because the Mooney M20R flown by the WMU team is considered the fastest among the aircraft in the race, WMU will probably face the most severe handicap.

Homister and Warner were the 26th plane to depart San Diego on the morning of July 26, at 8:45 a.m. PDT. They completed four legs of the race on the first day, and were the first plane to arrive in Pratt, at 5:45 p.m. CDT.

Most of the planes in the competition did not arrive in Kansas until the second day of the race (July 27), but by early that afternoon, all 31 aircraft in the competition were safely on the ground in Pratt. Because of the severe weather ahead, none of the planes, beginning with the WMU entry, was allowed to procede.

This is the second year that WMU has entered the competition. In June 2000, Jo-Elle Warner and Jennifer Richard, then a flight instructor in the College of Aviation, flew from Tucson, Ariz., to Hyannis, Mass.

The annual Air Race Classic is a women-only cross country air race. This year's event was designated as "The Silver Classic" to commemorate the race's 25 years. The Air Race Classic was begun in 1977, after the Powder Puff Derby (a previous women-only air competition) was discontinued. The first Air Race Classic had 27 planes. It began in California and ended in Ohio, the same as originally intended for this year's 25th anniversary.

The Air Race Classic is sponsored by the Ninety-Nines, the International Organization of Women Pilots. Famed aviator Amelia Earhart organized the group when she invited all of the 114 licensed women pilots in the United States to a meeting at Roosevelt Field on Long Island, New York, in 1929. The group became "The Ninety Nines" because of the 114 licensed women pilots invited to the first meeting, 99 attended. Earhart was selected as the organization's first president.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 616 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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