Jaila Manga (left) and Helen Miller pose near the propeller of their Cessna Sky Hawk at the Kent State University Airport, preparing their plane for the 41st Air Race Classic.
Jaila Manga (left) and Helen Miller pose near the propeller of their Cessna Sky Hawk at the Kent State University Airport, preparing their plane for the 41st Air Race Classic.
Helen Miller (left) and Jaila Manga discuss their race strategy during a rain shower a day prior to departing from the Kent State University Airport for the Air Race Classic.
Helen Miller (left) and Jaila Manga discuss their race strategy during a rain shower a day prior to departing from the Kent State University Airport for the Air Race Classic.
Helen Miller (left) and Jaila Manga discuss their race strategy during a rain shower a day prior to departing from the Kent State University Airport for the Air Race Classic.
Helen Miller (left) and Jaila Manga discuss their race strategy during a rain shower a day prior to departing from the Kent State University Airport for the Air Race Classic.

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

A pair of Kent State University female pilots are getting ready to compete 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 marks 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 includes 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 said. “I learned to have fun and take in the whole experience. There are a lot of amazing women who participate in this event, and I am lucky to be able to talk with them and learn from them.” 

This year's course will take 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 competing in the 2017 air race will depart from the Frederick Municipal Airport in Maryland on June 20. The 54 teams will have four days to complete the course. The arrival deadline is 5 p.m. on June 23. At each of the eight intermediate stops teams will execute high-speed flybys over a timing line as they race 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 is one of 14 colleges and universities competing. The team will fly in a Cessna Sky Hawk awarded to Kent State after receiving the unique distinction as a 2016 Top Hawk university. The aircraft is named Nikki in celebration of the life of Nicole “Nikki” Kukwa, an exemplary Kent State aeronautics student who helped establish the Kent State chapter of Women in Aviation, and 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. 

The Flying Flashes left the Kent State University Airport on June 15, heading to Maryland for the start of the race. The Flying Flashes will update their progress on Twitter using #NikkiTheTopHawk

POSTED: Thursday, June 15, 2017 - 5:53pm
UPDATED: Friday, June 16, 2017 - 8:36am
WRITTEN BY:
Kristin Anderson