By Tyler Ellyson
COLUMBUS – A four-day air race from Lake Havasu City, Ariz., to Batavia, Ohio, will bring dozens of female aviators to Columbus this week.
Fifty-five teams consisting of 116 pilots are entered in this year’s Air Race Classic, a 2,681-mile event that takes the aircraft through 10 cities beginning Tuesday.
Started in 1929 as the Women’s Air Derby, the Air Race Classic is a transcontinental speed competition for women pilots. The goal is to fly the perfect cross-country trip by outperforming a handicap speed given to each aircraft.
Being a part of this year’s race, which included Alliance in 2011, is an exciting opportunity for both the airport and community, said Mark Cozad, manager of Columbus Municipal Airport.
Cozad said the pilots who land here will boost business at local restaurants and hotels and provide the airport’s fixed-base operator, Avcraft Inc., with additional fuel sales.
The public is also welcome to try and catch a glimpse of the aircraft, but Cozad said it’s difficult to know exactly when each plane will arrive.
According to Cozad, the Federal Aviation Administration decided not to allow timing in Columbus because it requires a high-speed fly-over at low altitudes.
“The FAA thought that noise would be a factor, so they moved the timers down to David City,” he said.
Pilots have the option of stopping in Columbus after recording a time in David City or continuing on to Watertown, S.D.
Flying during the Air Race Classic is only allowed from sunrise to sunset, so some are expected to stay the night here.
“The majority of them will be coming in on the second day and the third day,” said Cozad, and they’ll be spread out.
The Columbus/Platte County Convention & Visitors Bureau and Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce will provide refreshments for those pilots who decide to stop here.
With both competition and non-competition categories, the Air Race Classic draws a range of women from beginning aviators to experienced pilots.
This year’s event includes 13 collegiate teams from nine different schools. Participating pilots come from 30 different states.
“There’s quite a wide variety of pilots,” said Cozad.
The Air Race Classic, which has a top-10 purse of $15,000, is open to all female aviators with fixed-wing aircraft between 145 and 570 horsepower.