Flying Flashes Finish Historical Air Race for Women
A pair of Kent State University female pilots have successfully completed the 2017 Air Race Classic. The Flying Flashes finished fifth out of the 12 universities, and 15th out of the 47 teams overall. They also received a prize for finishing second on the seventh leg of the race and were one of only nine teams to complete the race with zero penalties.
This is the second year in a row that Kent State has participated in the race. 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 Aeronautics & Engineering. This year’s team is Jaila Manga and Helen Miller, both seniors majoring in flight technology. Manga flew in last year’s race as a student - this year, she was the certified flight instructor leading the way.
This year's course took racers through 14 states and 2,600 miles, 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, 2017, and took four days to complete the course. 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 were valued at more than $16,500 and included medallions, trophies and cash awards.
The Flying Flashes 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.