Ladies-Only Airplane Race in Frederick, Maryland

Admin Airplanes, Flex Air News

More than 100 pilots joined an airplane race in Frederick, Md., on June 20.

Every pilot that participated was female.

Lin Caywood, a seven-time participant in the race and pilot with 14 years of experience, joined the group again this year with her Cessna 182 four-seater airplane. This year was a bit more special than the previous years because her hometown of Frederick hosted the event. “Frederick is such a cool little town,” Caywood said. “We wanted to share its uniqueness with our racers.” Caywood was more than just a pilot this year.

She was the main media contact for the race that has been dubbed “Air Race Classic.” This four-day, cross-country race has been held in different locations across the nation since 1929. Amelia Earhart once placed third. The last time Frederick hosted the competition was in 2010. As a member of the Sugarloaf Chapter of the Ninety-Nines, an all-female pilots association, Caywood affirms that the camaraderie amongst the ladies is strong, calling the group “Fly Camp.”

“It’s an opportunity to get together and bond over racing,” Caywood said.

The Air Race Classic is even more unique than just being all female. It is also one of the only “handicap races” in the country. This means that every airplane is flown in a box pattern at maximum speed, without extra weight. A computer calculates the airplane’s time upon completion of the course. Competitors are essentially attempting to beat their own times as opposed to racing each other. This method of racing levels the playing field by allowing all different types of aircraft to compete. Ultimately, this boils the competition down to pilot skill only, not make and model of the aircraft.

“The biggest strategy is deciding what altitude you’re going to fly at,” Caywood said.

The committee responsible for the race added an extra challenge this year. The race is typically flown on various paths from west to east. This year, the pilots flew from east to west. Beginning in Frederick and ending in Edgewood, N.M., this route posed many potential dangers. They flew over the Rocky Mountains during the afternoon hours. “It will be very strategic as to how they climb into the mountains,” Caywood said.

With her vast experience in the world of aviation, Caywood also has been given the unofficial title of “Mama Bird” for this year’s team of first-time racers. Each team consisted of a pilot, co-pilot and an optional team member. Haywood’s newbie trio is the AOPAAngels, featuring the pilots Luz Beattie, Kathy Dondzila and Paula Wivell. These women are all co-workers at the Airline Owners and Pilots Association in Frederick. The team was formed when Wivell joked that they should enter the race.

“We didn’t really think it was going to happen initially,” Beattie said.

“But when AOPA encouraged us, we thought, ‘We can do this.’” AOPA provided the team with an airplane and funding to begin. However, the team still faced obstacles. Wivell is the newest pilot on the team. Technically, she still needed 30 Pilot-In-Command (PIC) hours to reach the required 100 hours for the race. With the help of her fellow pilots, she was able to reach the required minimum amount of hours to compete. Beattie has her Commercial Pilot License, but she had never flown in a race before.

One of the challenges all competitors faced was adhering to the rule of recording the plane’s time during the nine separate legs of the race. “It’s a lot of detail work,” Beattie said. “Everything’s got to be just right.” Caywood was able to offer much-needed assistance. She was helping the three novice pilots with navigating strategies and limitations. “We’ve done a lot of pre-planning,” Caywood said. “I’ve shared with them how I’ve prepped. I think they’ll do very well.” The AOPAAngels were not so much focused on winning as they were on having fun.

“Our approach is focused on fun and safety and learning,” Dondzila said.

The race was held June 20 in Frederick.