Three Is the Charm: Kent State's Flying Flashes Win Air Race Three Straight Years

UPDATE: Kent State's Flying Flashes team 52, seniors Alyssa Sheehan and Peyton Turner, won the first-place Intercollegiate Class and the first-place overall Fastest WAI (Women in Aviation International) Team in the 47th annual Air Race Classic, which took place June 18-21. The competition spanned four days and included 10 legs of flying, covering more than 2,000 miles from Carbondale, Illinois, to Loveland, Colorado. Turner was a member of the 2023 first-place team.
Flying Flashes team 53, Madeline Goussios, a 2023 graduate of the College of Aeronautics and Engineering, and Kelsey Buyansky, a junior in the college, Kent State's second team in the race, won eighth-place Intercollegiate Class.
Both Flying Flashes teams arrived safely at the Kent State Airport on the evening of Tuesday, June 25.

Kent State University will have not one, but two Flying Flashes teams participating in the 2024 Air Race Classic for the first time, thanks to a generous donation from Kent State alumni who are also aviation enthusiasts.

During this year’s 47th annual Air Race Classic, which takes place June 18-21, the Flying Flashes will be defending back-to-back wins in the 2022 and 2023 Air Race Classics.

The competition spans four days and includes 10 legs of flying, covering more than 2,000 miles from Carbondale, Illinois, to Loveland, Colorado. Recently, the two teams were on the airfield at Kent State Airport waxing their airplanes and doing pre-flight checks. 



Having two teams representing Kent State was made possible by Vic Petrovic, '71, MBA '74, Ph.D. '06, and Cheryl Petrovic, '74. The side of each airplane says, “Thank You to the Petrovic Family for All Your Support.”

Vic Petrovic, who has served in both the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Army, is passionate about aviation, has experience as a private pilot, and holds a commercial pilot's license. He offered this encouragement to the teams: “Cheryl and I would like to wish both teams the best of luck in the coming weeks with the competition.”

Traditionally, the Kent State team is comprised of one team with a returning member and a new member to ensure experienced participation. With the addition of a second team, three newcomers will compete this year. 

“This is something we have wanted for a long time,” said Brian Neff, assistant dean, flight operations, College of Aeronautics and Engineering. “We have always had a lot of females interested in the Air Race. I am happy we can do this.” 

This is the Air Race Classic 2024 map

Who Are the 2024 Racers?

Senior Peyton Turner, a member of the 2023 first-place team, returns as the instructor for the navy team and will partner with newcomer Alyssa Sheehan. Both Turner and Sheehan are seniors in the College of Aeronautics and Engineering and flight instructors at the Kent State Airport.

Air Racers Peyton Turner and Alyssa Sheehan prepare their airplane for the Classic

Madeline Goussios, a 2023 graduate of the College of Aeronautics and Engineering, and Kelsey Buyansky, a junior in the college, will be first-time competitors on the gold team. Goussios also is a flight instructor with Kent State Airport.

Air Racers Madeline Goussios and Kelsey Buyansky do pre-flight checks before leaving for the Classic

It would be entirely possible for both Flying Flashes teams to tie for first place because the finish is calculated by the second. 

“I am very excited for the race,” said Turner, who with teammate Laura Wilson, took first place in the 2023 Air Race Classic. “Although I have a competitive nature, a true win to me will be both teams landing safely in Colorado.” 

How Have the Racers Prepared for the Classic?

In preparation for this year’s event Turner said the team has looked at the route thoroughly and taken time to dive into different obstacles along the way. Turner has been a great help to both teams because of her experience in the 2023 Air Race. 

“I have taken some time to really study mountain flying and the differences we will see in performance with the density altitude being so high.”

Sheehan added that the team has reviewed each of the legs together, looking for risks such as airspace and terrain. “We also have been flying in the flight simulators to practice procedures and crew resource management.” 

In addition, Goussios has been putting together a race binder to collect data on the routes and airports that they will be visiting. 

The Flying Flashes Love Aviation

Buyansky of Independence, Ohio, became interested in aviation through a family friend. “My mom set up the opportunity for me to do a discovery flight my junior year of high school and I have been hooked ever since.  She chose to attend Kent State because it felt like home. “The amazing aeronautics department blew me away and continues to by the growth of the program and how much the staff and faculty care about each student,” she said.  

Goussios of Howland, Ohio, grew up living near the Youngstown Air Reserve Station. “I remember as a kid watching the C130s flying around while jumping on my trampoline for hours and knew that I wanted to be just like them,” Goussios said. “I am excited to put my flying skills that I learned at Kent to the test and to learn more skills that I can end up teaching my own students as a flight instructor.”  

Turner, a Chicora, Pennsylvania, native, fell in love with flying when a female pilot introduced her to the flight deck on a private flight.

Turner’s partner Sheehan of Lockport, Illinois, fell in love with flying in her junior year of high school after going on a discovery flight with a family friend in a Piper Twin Comanche. That is when she started applying to colleges with flight schools. 

“I have always looked up to the other women in the flight program who have raced in the past,” Sheehan said. “Being able to participate is an amazing opportunity, and I am proud to represent Kent State” 

POSTED: Wednesday, June 12, 2024 02:40 PM
Updated: Wednesday, July 3, 2024 09:15 AM
April McClellan-Copeland
Photos by Rami Daud/Video by Ashton Blake and Gracie Ford