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2008 Air Race Classic 'flight log'

June 20, 2008

by Meghan Burlager and Betsy Taylor

BOZEMAN, Mont.--Hi all! We made it safely into Bozeman today with almost all parts working.

We left Battle Creek yesterday (June 19) morning and flew into Decatur, Ill.; Mason City, Iowa; and Aberdeen, S.D. We had planned to make it to Miles City, Mont., but G.W. Bush decided to ruin our fun by visiting Iowa City and Cedar Rapids.

Our weather briefer asked us to stay out of the news by avoiding those areas. We ended up making a quick diversion into Fairfield, Iowa, (good luck finding it on the map) to avoid some thunderstorms that were sneaking in. Luckily, the rest of the weather remained south of our course, and we spent the night in Aberdeen. There were pictures of hunting dogs on the wall and stuffed pheasants in the hotel where we stayed. Need we say more?

Today, we started out early (okay, not that early) by heading to Miles City and then to Bozeman.

The mountains are absolutely breathtaking out here. Is it okay if we don't come back? We climbed up to 12,500 feet MSL [mean sea level] and tested out the oxygen. It worked perfectly. Our climb performance was horrible as we expected, and we definitely felt the effects of the mountain waves. That is not exactly something that we are used to dealing with in Michigan.

Once we passed the Missouri River we noticed that something was a little 'off' with our Garmin GPS. By off, we mean it couldn't find either of the airports to which we were traveling. We managed to find each airport the old fashioned way and looked like real pilots.

It's hard to miss a checkpoint when it is a mountain. We may have mentioned this before, but they are breathtaking. We'll say it once more--breathtaking! Good thing we had oxygen! There were several ranges all around us, and we flew through a valley between them to get into Bozeman. The hilltops had snow, which reminded us of home.

When we landed in Bozeman and spoke with the volunteers involved, they joked around with us asking how we made it this far without GPS.

Upon arrival our "neighbors," #31 team, walked over to see us. One of the members was a Western grad from over 20 years ago. We failed to mention that we were probably not born yet. They flew in from Detroit the previous day. They were the first of many great women that we've met in the short time we've been here. Rumor has it the first WWII female pilot was flying the course just ahead of us, and she is "a pistol." We can't wait to meet her.

The FBO [fixed base operation, an airport service center] here looks like a log cabin, and the Yellowstone Jet Center was amazing. Betsy thought that she had walked into the wrong building--a nice bed and breakfast instead of a place where mechanics and pilots get to walk around all day. We were one of the last to arrive for the day, and Hertz had run out of cars. Luckily, they gave us an upgrade for the same discounted compact price. We look quite fierce in our Infinity.

Tomorrow starts the events for new racers, and we will be fairly busy until the start of the race on Tuesday (June 24). We are hoping to take some time to look around, since we have never been here. Yellowstone National Park is a 90-minute drive.

We want to thank everyone for all the well-wishes you have given us this far, and a big thank you to Western for everything. We will fly fast for you!

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Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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