Western’s women’s aviation team finishes fourth in ‘empowering’ cross-country race

Contact: Deanne Puca
left to right are Becca Lowe, Lily Hume, Emily Hartzell, Caroline Yuska

Western's women's pilot team for the Air Race Classic includes, from left to right, Becca Lowe, Lily Hume, Emily Hartzell and Caroline Yuska.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Teamwork was the name of the game for Western Michigan University’s women’s pilot team in the Air Race Classic. Finishing fourth in their class against 21 other collegiate teams, the “Bronco Baddies” raced airplanes over four days, covering approximately 2,500 miles in the all-female race.

“This race has been so empowering. Being surrounded by only women participating in an event created by women in a field dominated by men gave me strength,” says Lily Hume, who made her race debut this year.

The team completed all nine legs of the race June 18-21 in one of WMU’s fixed-wing, single engine Cirrus SR20 planes. Intercollegiate, competition and non-competition teams from across the country set out from Carbondale, Illinois, and finished in Loveland, Colorado, competing against an aircraft-specific handicap, rather than head-to-head against other competitors. They made 10 stops starting in the Midwest in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Minnesota and Missouri before turning westbound for Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado.

The College of Aviation’s Bronco Baddies included pilot Hume, B.S.’24, of Arlington Heights, Illinois; co-pilot Emily Hartzell, B.S.’23, of Durand, Michigan; navigator Caroline Yuska, an aviation flight science sophomore from Carmel, Indiana; and ground coordinator Becca Lowe, an aviation flight science senior from Aurora, Illinois. Co-advisors are Dominic Nicolai, WMU lead flight instructor, and Annie Quardokus, B.S.’16, an alumna who works for Bissell in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

“Preparing for the race with this team has provided me with knowledge and experience that I will continue to use for the rest of my life. The trust, communication and understanding this team has generated set us up to be successful,” Hume says. “Each of us had a vital role in this fast-flying machine. This race is more than just flying; it takes trust, stamina, confidence and teamwork.”

This was WMU’s 20th race since 2000, which culminates events during the past year dedicated to encouraging and promoting the tradition of pioneering women in aviation.

“Every year we strive to do a little better in our preparation for the race. This year we improved in every aspect from team bonding, route analysis, training and execution,” says Nicolai, adding last year’s team placed 11 out 18 collegiate teams. “Our team dedicated their time for the past nine months, and it paid off.”

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.