WMU alumna wins Women's Air Race Classic
July 8, 2009
KALAMAZOO--A Western Michigan University alumna has won a national air race begun 80 years ago by famed aviator Amelia Earhart.
Kelly Burris, a 1988 WMU graduate with a degree in aeronautical engineering, and her co-pilot Erin Recke, of Bellingham, Wash., won the Air Race Classic, an all-female transcontinental air race. The race featured 34 teams, more than 60 women and covered about 2,400 miles. It started June 23 in Denver and finished four days later in Atlantic, Iowa. Burris piloted her 1962 Beechcraft Debonair aircraft.
"Since a very young age, I have had a passion for aviation and flying and I have always been a serious competitor. The Air Race Classic has such a rich heritage and with the depth of the field of competitors, this victory is very humbling and quite and honor," Burris says.
Burris, of Pleasant Ridge, Mich., is a lawyer in the Ann Arbor office of Brinks Hofer Gilson & Lione, one of the largest intellectual property firms in the nation. A pilot since 1985, she learned to fly at WMU while pursuing her bachelor's degree. Prior to attending law school, she worked for more than 11 years as an engineer in the aerospace industry. As a patent attorney, she handles hundreds of patent issues involving aviation and often uses her plane for business purposes.
Burris and Recke won $5,000 as top prize from the race and will donate the award to Angel Flight Central, part of Air Charity Network, a non-profit organization that matches people in need with free flights and other travel resources. Burris and Recke also raised more than $10,000 for Angel Flight as part of their 2009 race efforts.
Burris has been a volunteer pilot with Angel Flight Central and Angel Flight Mid-Atlantic since 2004. Highlights from their race, information about Angel Flight and the Air Race Classic can be viewed on their blog at http://nocloudsforus.blogspot.com.
WMU's College of Aviation, which had a student entry in the Air Race Classic each of the previous nine years, did not enter the 2009 competition. WMU teams won the Collegiate Cup in 2005, and finished second among college entries three straight years, 2006-08. The highest overall finish for WMU was fourth place in 2006.
Media contact: Deanne Puca, (269) 387-8400, firstname.lastname@example.org