Flying Flashes Race From Maryland to New Mexico in Historical Air Race for Women | e-Inside | Kent State University

Flying Flashes Race From Maryland to New Mexico in Historical Air Race for Women

A pair of Kent State University female pilots competed in the Air Race Classic for the second year in a row. 

The competition is the oldest of its kind with roots that can be traced back to the 1929 Women’s Air Derby, in which Amelia Earhart and 19 other female pilots raced from California to Cleveland. 

This year marked the 41st Air Race Classic, featuring 118 women pilots of all ages and all backgrounds, including the Flying Flashes from Kent State’s College of Applied Engineering, Sustainability and Technology. This year’s team included Jaila Manga and Helen Miller, both are seniors majoring in flight technology. Manga flew in last year’s race as a student. This year, she is the certified flight instructor leading the way. 

“I am very excited to be racing again, and now I have a much better idea of what to expect for this year,” Manga says. “I learned to have fun and take in the whole experience. A lot of amazing women participate in this event, and I am lucky to be able to talk with them and learn from them.” Jaila Manga and Helen Miller, both Kent State seniors majoring in flight technology, competed in the Air Race Classic for the second year in a row.

This year's course took racers through 14 states, from the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the far northern reaches of the Continental United States to the high desert of New Mexico. 

Teams departed from the Frederick Municipal Airport in Maryland on June 20. The 54 teams had four days to complete the course. The arrival deadline was 5 p.m. on June 23. At each of the eight intermediate stops, teams executed high-speed flybys over a timing line as they raced against the clock. Prizes for the Air Race Classic are valued at more than $16,500 and include medallions, trophies and cash awards. 

Kent State was one of 14 colleges and universities in the competition. The team flew in the university's newest Cessna Sky Hawk. Both Manga and Miller are members of the Kent State Women in Aviation chapter founded by Nicole “Nikki” Kukwa, an exemplary Kent State aeronautics student who served as an inspiration to those who knew her. Kukwa passed away from leukemia during her junior year. In her honor, a free aeronautics camp for high school girls takes place annually to show Kukwa’s continued, positive influence in aeronautics.