The Flying Flashes Reach the Finish Line Early

The Flying Flashes Reach the Finish Line Early


What was scheduled to take four days to complete, Kent State University’s Flying Flashes finished in three.

Carissa Marion, a Kent State flight instructor and graduate of the university and Jalia Manga, a flight technology major in Kent State’s College of Applied Engineering, Sustainability and Technology, landed in Daytona Beach, Florida on Thursday, June 23, instead of the following day when the all-women, 2700 mile Air Race Classic officially ended.

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’s race featured 130 women pilots of all ages and all backgrounds.

Manga and Marion started the race in Prescott, Arizona on June 21. They made flybys at each en route timing point and landed at the terminus. The course passed through 12 states before ending in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Because planes travel at different speeds, each one received a unique handicap. Instead of racing against each other, the teams were racing against their own best time. They needed to strategically plan for the weather in order to beat their handicap by the greatest margin.

Prizes include $16,500 in cash, medallions and trophies. Manga and Marion are awaiting their official race results.

This is the first year that a Kent State student is participating in the Air Race Classic. The team was mentored by Lt. Col. Sarah Deal Burrow, a 1992 graduate of Kent State, who was sponsored by the university in a previous race. Burrow was the first female marine selected for Naval Aviation Training, and the Marine Corps’ first female aviator in 1993. 

The team flew 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 Flying Black Squirrel, which is a student chapter of the organization Women in Aviation, International. Nikki passed away from leukemia during her junior year. In her honor, a free aeronautics camp for high school girls takes place annually to show Nikki’s continued, positive influence in aeronautics.

Manga and Marion will soon start their journey home to Kent State University Airport. You can follow their progress on Twitter using #NikkiTheTopHawk.

Photo Caption:
Carissa Marion (left) Jalia Manga (right) are the first female pilot team from Kent State to compete in the Air Race Classic. Follow their progress on Twitter using #NikkiTheTopHawk.

POSTED: Thursday, June 16, 2016 04:43 PM
Updated: Thursday, December 8, 2022 05:29 PM
Kristin Anderson