Panama City - Three local female pilots are making final preparations for what could be one of the greatest adventures of their lives. They are participating in a cross country air race that Amelia Earhart made famous decades ago. But it's not just a sense of accomplishment they're after, the trio is trying to encourage other women, young and old, to pursue the pilot's seat.
More than 2300 nautical miles, over 23 states, in less than 4 days. That's the Air Race Classic challenge. The racers: a team of Bay County grandmothers. The women-only race was made famous by Amelia Eahart in 1929, and these locals are eager to make their mark in aviation history. But that's not all, one of the major reasons the women are racing, is to get more women in the pilot's seat. "In the 100 years that women have been licensed pilots, there are only 7 percent of the licensed pilots in the world today that are women," said Linda Artman, a pilot and member of Team Up.
Their' is a message of soaring to new heights in the classroom as well. "In the next decade it's estimated the new jobs in Florida will require a STEM degree. The challenge is to motivate to students to want to study science, technology, engineering and math because they are tough fields of study. Aviation is a great link between STEM education and the outside world, to show the exciting side of STEM and racing is an exciting side of aviation," said pilot Leah Dunn, who will by flying in the race.
With the 55 plane race starting in Lake Havasu, Arizona and ending in Batavia, Ohio, the route alone will offer some exciting challenges. "Going over the mountains, going over the desert terrain, we have a lot of high density altitude. The plane's power is reduced when it gets hot, we'll have to work with the weather, the pop-up thunderstorms like we see here, we will have to deal with all of it as we fly this race this summer," said flight instructor Joan Evert.
The team is raising money for a new interactive aviation exhibit at the Science and Discovery Center of Northwest Florida. For more information and to follow the team while they are racing, find them on facebook, search teamupairracers. Or click on newslinks on wjhg.com