WMU Home > About WMU > WMU News

WMU News

Broncos win collegiate title at Air Race Classic

June 27, 2005

BATTLE CREEK, Mich.--Pilot Sarah Tower and co-pilot Erica Ebenhoeh, Western Michigan University's team in the 2005 Air Race Classic, returned to W.K. Kellogg Airport in Battle Creek today with the trophy for finishing first among college teams in the race.

Five of the 40 teams in the race were entered in the collegiate competition, including teams from Purdue University and Ohio University, which had won the previous two races.

Ebenhoeh and Tower also piloted their Cessna 172 to WMU's highest overall finish in six tries at the high-profile all-women's air race. The Broncos finished eighth among the 40 teams, for which they received a $500 prize.

"It was a fantastic experience," says Ebenhoeh, a first-time participant in the event. "This [Air Race Classic] is something I want to be involved with for many years. If I'm not flying in the race, I want to help as a volunteer."

Over a period of four days, June 21-24, Ebenhoeh and Tower were in the air 20.5 hours covering a total distance of 2,436.3 miles. The race began and ended at Purdue University in Indiana and included stops in Minnesota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee and Ohio.

"Experience and ability are big factors in the race, but there's also a lot of luck involved," says Tower, a veteran of two races. "Planes depart the checkpoints at different times and may face different weather and wind conditions, and that's not something you can accurately predict or control."

"We are very grateful to have had this opportunity and appreciate the support we received from the university and everyone at the College of Aviation," Tower says.

WMU's previous best finish came one year ago, when a team composed of Tower and Amanda Gruden finished 10th out of 33 teams overall and second among four college entries.

Ebenhoeh is a 2004 graduate of WMU's College of Aviation from New Lothrop, Mich. Tower, who is from Brighton, Mich., is a WMU flight instructor and a 2003 graduate of the university's aviation flight science program.

Women's air racing traces its origins to 1929 with the first Women's Air Derby, which was sponsored by the Ninety-Nines International Organization of Women Pilots. The Ninty-Nines was founded that year by 99 licensed women pilots, and famed aviator Amelia Earhart was the group's first president.

Racing continued through the 1930s and was renewed after World War II, when the All Women's Transcontinental Air Race, better known as the Powder Puff Derby, came into being. The 30th and final Powder Puff Derby was held in 1977. The Air Race Classic stepped in to continue the tradition of transcontinental speed competition for women pilots and staged its first race in 1977.

Related article
2005 Air Race Classic 'flight log'

Media contact: Thom Myers, 269 387-8400, thom.myers@wmich.edu

WMU News
Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
269 387-8400