The View from Here

Cheers to the Birds of Paragon!

Classic Racer #16 brings home victories on multiple fronts in Air Race Classic 2022

Fresh off a second place victory – with some firsts noted below – I’m happy to be guest blogging for Chris Schoensee, who in 2019 asked me if I would be interested in putting together a team of Paragon Flight pilots for the Air Race Classic (ARC) 2020.

The ARC is an all-female air race started in 1929 by the founding, fearless female pilots of our country. I was excited be part of history; the bonus being the terminus was in my home state of Indiana. But, like everything, “due to Covid,” the Air Race Classic was cancelled in 2020 and 2021. Finally in 2022 the race was on – and the Birds of Paragon “Classic Racer #16” team, consisting of Katie Truedson, Cassie Thompson-Pride and me, was formed. We chose racer number 16 to celebrate Paragon Flight Training’s 16th year in business and happily accepted Chris’ offer to fly one of their new Piper P100i aircraft. (Paragon Flight also sponsored our uniforms, lodging and other incidentals – their generosity is greatly appreciated!)

On June 21, 2022, more than 40 teams, including ours, departed from Lakeland International Airport, Lakeland, Florida, competing in a 9 leg, 2,500-nautical-mile race route through Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Illinois, Tennessee, and terminating at Terre Haute Regional Airport, Terre Haute, IN.

The course was flown in VFR conditions during daylight hours; weather, wind, terrain, and airplane performance were calculated to try and obtain maximum speed from the aircraft. The winner of the race is determined by the team beating their handicap flight speed by the greatest margin. Teams must also adhere to race rules; wings level, specified altitude above timing lines, specified routes around airports, etc. If a team does not adhere to the race rules, a penalty of one knot or a fraction of one knot is subtracted from the team’s score for that leg of the race.

Several teams compete in this race year after year. For our rookie team to finish second – with no penalties – and to earn the designation of fastest Piper aircraft in the race is an accomplishment I am very proud of – as I am of the effectiveness of our trio team. I was a bit intimidated about becoming a pilot so late in life, but with the support of Paragon Flight School and my fellow lady pilots in Southwest Florida, I realized aviation is an amazing field filled with many opportunities for all ages. In the future, I hope to help train future Paragon ARC teams and, looking further ahead, racing in the 2029 ARC, which will be the 100-year anniversary of the race.

If you are interested in being part of history – even if you have never flown before – you can start pilot training now, and race in next year’s Air Race Classic 2023. I know the perfect flight school for you to begin your journey!