off at 9 a.m. Monday (June 9) from Purdue University Airport in a
small plane for a four-day race that crosses the entire country,
beginning June 16 in Concord, California, and finishing in New
Pilot Rachel Borsa, a senior from Erie, Pennsylvania, is returning to
the women's-only Air Race Classic after serving as Purdue's co-pilot
in 2013. Joining her in the cockpit is copilot Haley Myers, a senior
from North Branford, Connecticut. Borsa was the first Purdue
competitor to copilot an advanced Cirrus SR22 after a decade of the
team flying an older, less powerful, manually controlled Piper Warrior
Borsa has dreamed of being a pilot since she was 3, and her career
goal is to be a pilot at one of the major airlines before moving onto
a cargo carrier such as FedEx.
"I'm sure my parents thought I was kidding, but I've been hooked since
I took off for the first time in a small plane when I was a high
school freshman," Borsa said. "Listen for me on future commercial
flights; maybe you will hear Capt. Borsa is flying!"
The Air Race Classic traces its origins to women's-only races that
were started by pilots, including Amelia Earhart, who were banned from
competing against men. Purdue recruited Earhart to come to the
university to encourage coeds to pursue nontraditional careers.
The aviators will be supported by a ground crew at Purdue that will
constantly monitor weather to calculate the best strategy and path to
maximize performance against dozens of teams. The goal is to complete
the entire course as quickly as possible, but each team will
ultimately be graded on how fast it flew compared to its aircraft's
officially rated speed capability.
"Even a 50-foot difference in altitude can make a significant impact
on how well the plane performs in an ever-changing environment," said
Myers, who headed the ground crew last year and will help navigate the
plane with on board electronic gear, including an iPad equipped with
mapping and weather apps.
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