Kimi’s Travel Log
I am in
the Women’s Air Race Classic (June 20-23, 1996) 
with Jennifer Jager & Caroline Van Newkirk


Early June 1996 The Night Before the Race
A Few Days Before the Race Begins Race Day!!!

All About Airplanes

Early June 1996
Amy’s sister, Jennifer Jager, is a pilot.  She flies a small airplane called a Cessna.  She called us up the other night to tell us how excited she was.  She is going to fly in the Women’s Air Race Classic!  It’s an airplane race across the United States – and only women can fly in it!  When I heard that, I crawled up to the top of Amy’s head and asked, “Can I go?! Can I go?! I’m a woman – okay, a lizard, but a woman too! Can I go … PLEASE?!!!!”  And guess what – Jennifer said she would love for me to come with her!!  YAHOO!  
The 99s is an international organization of women pilots.  It was started in 1929 by 99 women pilots to support women in aviation.  It sponsors the Air Race Classic each year.


A Few Days Before the Race Begins

Jennifer said good-bye to her boyfriend, Scott, and I said good-bye to Kini – then we high flyin’ women got into the airplane and headed to Prescott, Arizona where the race would begin.  On the way we met up with the other pilot for our plane named Caroline.  
All planes should have two pilots in them. If something goes wrong and you are in an airplane, you need someone else there to help out. All big commercial airplanes have co-pilots. Jenny and Caroline will both share the responsibilities of being pilots – they will be trading off throughout the flight.  I won’t get to actually fly because I don’t have my license, but I will have a lot of fun and learn a lot of things!


The Night Before the Race
We were staying at the Hotel St. Michael in Prescott, Arizona.  Jenny took me to my first restaurant and bar.  She had one beer (she was going to be flying tomorrow so she didn’t have any more) and I got to sit in a seat that was like the tractor seats we have in Virginia!  
Before the race began, all the first time racing women (and lizard) participants had to attend a safety meeting. This airplane race is different from a car race or running in a race.   
I thought that we would be trying to cross the finish line first to win the race. But when you fly that might not be a good or safe idea. The pilots might not make the best decisions if they are trying to run their airplanes too fast or going into airspace that they shouldn’t be in. So, this race is more about how accurately the pilots can fly rather than how fast they can get to the finish.  In the meeting I got very confused. The people who were explaining the rules said things like, “Each plane is rated to fly at a certain speed" … "You will have to cross different types of terrain (What?) and plan a route that will get you to the finish line faster than your plane is rated for.  (What??)” 

After the meeting, Jenny explained to me that these rules are like the rules for driving on the highway.  The speed limit on most highways in Virginia is 65 miles per hour, but in some areas, if you are driving an 18-wheeler or a tanker-truck, your speed limit is 55 miles per hour.  
If you are driving a car at 65 miles per hour, you should be able to go 65 miles in 1 hour.  But, if you are driving an 18-wheeler, you could only go 55 miles in 1 hour.  So, everybody is driving as fast as they can under the law. It’s not your fault that your vehicle is slower than the other person’s.  If the car and the 18-wheeler were to race, the car would always get to the finish line first – so, the question is, how can one make the race fair?  

The judges know the average time it would take for the car to get to the finish line, and they know the average time it would take for the 18-wheeler to get there too.  What the drivers have to do is to cross the finish line faster than their estimated time without breaking the speed limits.  

“But,” I asked Jenny, “how can I drive at 65 miles per hour with all the other cars driving at 65 miles per hour, and still get to the finish line first?” 

“Well,” she said, “what if you found a shortcut? Wouldn’t you get there faster without breaking the speed limit?  Or, what if you watched the Weather Channel and saw that there was so much rain in one area that the bridges were washing out?  So, you took a longer route, but you didn’t have to wait for the rain to stop.   Wouldn’t that also get you to the finish line before the other people?”

Hummm….  Yes.  I could go further, get there faster, and not go over the speed limits, even if my truck is slower than the car. Jenny said that the same is true with airplanes.  Pilots have to fly around the thunderstorms & big airports, and then they have to plan a route that flies the shortest distance (and still get the fuel they need) between the start and finish lines.  So, it is not the first plane that gets to the finish line, but the plane that does it the most efficiently. 

I had already learned a lot – and we had not even started the race!   



Jenny, Caroline, and I went back to the motel room to look over the entire route.  I got on the map to get a close up view of our planned flight path. 
Then we looked over the AOPA’s Aviation USA book and the Air race rules  binder. The aviation book is like a telephone book of all the airports in the USA.  It has pictures of the runways too.  You can see my headphones that I was trying on.  I will need them to be able to hear the pilots and the control towers while we are flying. You can listen to the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport by clicking on this link. (You will need the Real Audio Player so be sure to get the free player at Jenny and Caroline were discussing the ways they could win the race. They decided that we would have to use both math and science to win the race.   


Both math and science are very important in flying airplanes. They allow us to navigate our way across the United States.  For example, a basic idea in math is that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. So we want to fly the straightest line between each of the cities that we will be spending the night in.  

Science is going to help us do this by tracking our airplane with satellites. We will have a small computer with us called a GPS or Global Positioning System. It will get signals from 3 or more satellites orbiting the Earth and calculate the plane’s position and movement over the ground. I guess that means it will have to use math too. 
We will also be watching the weather  so that we can fly with the best winds and clearest skies (this site is from the National Weather Service).  The wind blows at different speeds depending on how high you are above the ground – that is called altitude.  We want to fly with the winds at the tail of our airplane to push us along, so we need to fly at different altitudes to get the best winds.  
We will be running our plane at the same speed, but we will be moving across the ground faster because the wind is pushing us. Good weather will help us too.  Just like in a car, when it is raining or storming, it is a good idea to slow down or take a different road to get out of the rain.  We have to watch the weather carefully so that we can try to stay away from the storms and still make good time to the next stop. 


Race Day!!!
I helped to preflight the airplane for our first take off.  It is important to make sure everything on the airplane is working properly before we take off, so I watched the elevators and rudder to see if they moved properly when Jenny moved the yoke or foot peddles.  I know, I used some new words that not everyone will know.  Click on the picture to learn about how an airplane flies and find links to airplane sites. 
After we took off, I got my first look at the Arizona landscape.  It is very different from the countryside in Virginia.  Arizona is desert and has very rugged areas.  There are plateaus that are like mountains with very steep sides and very flat tops.  And they go on for many many miles! 
Then we got to see Meteor Crater.  About 50,000 years ago, a meteor hit the Earth (close to where the city of Prescott is now) and left a huge crater.  It is over 4,000 feet across and 570 feet deep.  It was awesome to see from the air! 

Jenny said that we were headed for Durango, Colorado and she called this the first leg of the trip.  I thought that was really funny – why would anyone call each part of a flying trip a leg?  They should have called it a wing or feather! We got there in good time and landed for fuel.  

At each point on our route, we had to do a fly-by for the judges so that they knew what time we arrived.  The would add all this information up to determine who the winner would be.  You don't have to land, but as long as we were there, we decided to get more gas.  We filled up fast so that we could get back into the sky for the rest of the legs :) of the race. 
It was so exiting to fly!  And I was learning so much!  At the end of the day, we landed in Roswell, New Mexico.  Jenny said that a lot of people think that Roswell is where UFOs land.  The word UFO stands for Unidentified Flying Object.  (UFO is not really a word - it is an acronym because it is a series of letters that we now think of as a real word.)  I was hoping to see one, but I didn’t get to.
I did see an airplane whos engine had caught fire.  I went over to inspect it.  It wasn’t a pretty sight.  There was a smoky smell and the paint had been burned and blistered.  The pilots were okay, but they had to withdrawal from the race since they no longer had an airplane to fly in.  I was so sad about that. 
The next morning we were back in the air and on our way to Wichita Falls, Texas.  
When we landed I got to take a ride on a little cart with a sign that said, “Follow Me”.  I really like that – I was beginning to like anywhere that we could get out of the cramped space of the airplane. 
We then flew to Conway, Arkansas and on to Owensboro, Kentucky.  
As you can see, the landscape was changing.  Everything was getting greener and I knew we were getting closer to the finish line. 
Our next stop was in Athens, Georgia.  
I got to sit on a railing in front of the hotel with my headphones still on.  I was getting so use to them I forgot to take them off! 
  The last leg of the race was into Daytona Beach, Florida. 

Before we got started I wanted to look at the map that Jenny and Caroline had marked out.  It looked like a straight shot with out any problems.  We would finally get to find out if we were going to win the race!  I had all my little lizard fingers and toes crossed!

After we landed and the flight times and air speeds were calculated, we found out that we had finished 36th out of the 51 planes that crossed the finish line.  We did not win, we didn’t even place in the top one-half of the racers, but we did finish and we did learn a lot.  Many times that can be as important as winning a race. 
Kini surprised Jenny and me by flying to Datona to meet us after the race.  He got a one way ticket so that he could fly back to Virginia with us in our little Cessna.  I was so happy to see him!  We sat out on the balcony of our hotel and watched the people swim in the pool and told stories till it was bedtime.  I had a lovely time but I am looking forward to getting home to see Bob and Amy again!


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