The Air Race Classic brings together competitive pilots for its 45th year


Editor’s Note: This article is part of a month-long series to mark Women’s History Month: March 1: Female Aviation Pioneers | March 2: Carole Hopson | March 4: Martha King | March 8: Association of Aeronautical Maintenance Women | March 11: The Classic Air Race | March 15: Sisters of the Skies | March 18: Women in Aviation Conference | March 22: Women in Aviation: The Numbers | March 22: First promotion of female Air Force pilots. | March 25: Bonny Simi from Joby Aviation | March 29: Top Women Making a Difference in Aviation

A hangar full of teams gathers for the main weather briefing. It’s the morning of the first day of the Air Race Classicand the tension concentrated in the building is palpable.

All the competitors, whether new to the game or not, whisper their strategy among themselves while the chief meteorologist in charge of the briefing gives the verdict: good VFR conditions on the whole course. Light winds. A high pressure system creating no major weather problems except for haze from summer humidity in the Midwest.

The race is on.

[Courtesy: Air Race Classic]

A new year, a new race

Now preparing for the race’s 45th year, the ARC management team is focused on bringing the race’s original long-distance format back after the pandemic forced a creative version of Air Derby in 2021 and l complete cancellation of the race the previous year.

However, the organization has learned lessons from hosting the one-day circuit race in 2021 – flown at venues determined by each team – and the new inclusion of a wider range of aircraft accepted for the competition in developing the guidelines for the 2022 race.

The course typically outlines a point-to-point or circular route across the United States and sometimes into Canada. The route typically includes nine or 10 stops over a course of approximately 2,500 nautical miles.

This year’s race, which runs June 21-24, begins in Lakeland, Fla. (KLAL). From there, stops include:

  • Moultrie, Georgia (KMGR)
  • Muscle Shoals, Alabama (KMSL)
  • Hattiesburg, Mississippi (KHBG)
  • Pine Bluff, Arkansas (KPBF)
  • Ada, Oklahoma (KADH)
  • Lawrence, Kansas (KLWC)
  • Mount Vernon, IL (KMVN)
  • Tullahoma, TN (KTHA)

The terminus of the race occurs when the last plane crosses the finish line in the sky at Terre Haute, Indiana (KHUF).

Support from the Ray Foundation

The Air Race Classic’s mission to increase pilot education and elevate experience has earned it recognition from the Ray Foundation, a private charitable organization focused on the advancement of general aviation.

“The Air Race Classic is deeply honored to announce that we have been awarded a restricted matching grant from the Ray Foundation for the purpose of developing and operating our educational program,” ARC said in a statement. “All funds raised and received by ARC during calendar year 2022 and identified for education will be matched dollar for dollar up to $25,000.”

Change course

In order to preserve a level playing field between racing aircraft, the ARC has long used a relatively narrow band of aircraft allowed to compete. The organization recently refined its rules to allow other aircraft to participate, namely those with turbocharged or supercharged piston engines, but only normally aspirated piston single cylinders can fly in the “competition class”.

The ARC still does not allow experimental aircraft to compete, but they are looking for pilots with E-AB class aircraft to participate in this year’s evaluation and data collection for possible inclusion in a future race. Light sport aircraft are permitted as long as they meet performance requirements.

So what is the cost?

Racing doesn’t come cheap – the team entry fee is $1,298 this year and covers:

  • Race rewards and prizes
  • Development and operation of routes, departures and terminals
  • Tickets for the event and the runners’ banquet

Riders can also expect to spend an additional $3,500 to $4,500 on fuel, travel, and incidentals. Those who have participated in the past liken the expense – and the corresponding benefits and experience gained – to that of adding a rating or endorsement to a pilot certificate.

How to participate in the race

Interested in participating? The entry deadline for the race is March 31 at 11:59 p.m. EDT.

With 98 runners registered so far, the ARC is looking for number 100. You will need copies of your pilot’s certificate, medical certificate or BasicMed documents, as well as a photo ID issued by the government. Send any entry questions to [email protected]

Once you have registered as a team, you will need to register your aircraft. The complete online aircraft check-in form and complete AD list must be submitted by the aircraft check-in closing date, May 15 at 11:59 p.m. EDT. Email [email protected] with questions about the airplane.

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