4 female student pilots set to race across the country for K-State Salina

Published: May. 23, 2023 at 8:39 AM CDT
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MANHATTAN, Kan. (WIBW) - Four female student pilots from K-State Salina will fly a race zigzagging the country in an attempt to bring home the gold for Kansas.

Kansas State University says that four students from the Salina Aerospace and Technology Campus will continue to prepare for a national flight racing competition to be held over the summer.

K-State noted that the Women’s Air Race Classic is a yearly competition that features only female pilots. Competitors will travel across 10 states as they take off from Grand Forks, N.D., and cross the finish line in Homestead, Fla.

The University indicated that the 2023 race is set to take place between June 20 and 23 and will feature 101 racers from 44 teams including 19 from 15 universities.

Officials said four students from the Salina campus will gain experience from the competition all of which are in the professional pilot degree program. The students will split into two separate teams including a pilot and a copilot. Competitors include Roxana Linares, a senior from Arkansas City; Ulissa Hernandez, a senior from Salina; Venus Thanasouk, a senior from Wichita; and Natalie Novak, a junior from Dawson, Neb.

K-State noted that Hernandez is also the student leader of the campus’ Women’s Air Race Classic organization. She said the competition is a challenge for all female pilots currently or formerly in the industry - regardless of age.

“The Women’s Air Race Classic is an annual race that female pilots of all ages get to participate in and challenge their aviation knowledge and skills,” Hernandez said. “This is a great opportunity for each pilot to gain more experience and fly over different parts of the country that they might not have seen before. We’ll also have a chance to fly with and meet other female pilots and network with those in the aviation industry.”

During the 4-day competition, K-State said competitors will fly to and from 9 different stops all over the country - including a flyover of the Herington Regional Airport in Kansas. The teams will be timed on each leg of more than 2,600 miles as they implement a strategy accounting for endurance and weather. The team with the fastest combined time will win.

According to the University, the best 10 teams will get a cash prize, with first place awarded $6,000 and prizes for each team member. Teams can also win awards in various categories - including a collegiate division.

K-State said its teams will fly in Cessna 172s - the standard aircraft for flight training in the professional pilot degree. While the race allows students to compete while enjoying their craft, it is also another example of dedication to finding more flight experience for women.

“The Women’s Air Race Classic allows our student participants an educational space away from the classroom that is fun and exciting but also benefits their future career prospects,” said Terri Gaeddert, associate dean of academics and interim department head of aviation at K-State Salina. “Student experiences like this strengthen their development and help them stay engaged and focused and supports our campus’s strategic initiatives.”

For more information about the race or to view the route, click HERE.