LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Next week, 97 pilots and students will be racing out of Lakeland Linder International Airport for the 45th annual Air Race Classic.
The teams will spend over 24 hours in the air, pass over airports in 10 states and end in Terra Haute, Indiana on Friday.
All the competitors are women.
The race’s roots date back to 1929, when women’s air racing began with the “Women’s Air Derby.”
“I think this air race is a great opportunity to show women pilots of all ages and hopefully more people will be inspired to become pilots through this,” said Emma Othmer, a 22-year old Polk State College student and pilot.
She and 20-year-old Autumn Richarz, a fellow Polk State College student, make up “Team Red Eagles.”
“There’s a lot of preparation that goes into it from getting the aircraft ready in terms of maintenance and fuel, realizing all of our calculations from here to our destination. It’s a lot of flight planning, a lot of work,” said Othmer.
Fewer than 10% of pilots are female.
“It is totally male-dominated. However, I see more and more women come every day,” said Richarz, who speaks about aviation at local schools.
Richarz says the longest she’s ever flown is 7.7 hours. On Friday morning, she flew to Georgia to pick up a rescue dog.
Richarz is looking forward to spending more hours in the air than ever and competing.
“I’m excited to see what other people’s backgrounds are in comparison to mine, how they started out, how their training went, any tips they can give me for my career,” said Richarz.
“The aircraft doesn’t know who is flying it. They don’t know if you’re male, female,” said Richele Floyd.
Floyd is a commercial pilot and has been flying for more than two decades.
“I get skipped over because I’m a female and I’m called Richard a lot because I think people just expect to be speaking to a male,” said Floyd.
At the Air Race Classic, she will be just another one of the ladies.
It’s her first time competing. Her team “Lady Aces” includes the competition’s youngest racer: a 17-year old high school student.
The racers take off Tuesday morning from Lakeland Linder International Airport.