MTSU aerospace students Alison Taylor of Murfreesboro and Alexis Hutchinson of Nashville soon will be on the ride of their relatively young lives.
Taylor, 20, a May graduate of MTSU, and current student Hutchinson, 23, will be flying from Pasco, Wash., to Fayetteville, Ark., in the 37th annual Air Race Classic.
They will fly in Taylor’s Piper Cherokee 140D in the event, which is being held during daylight hours.
The women, both aerospace professional pilot majors, are one of 47 teams racing in the event, which ends Friday, June 21. After the race, they plan to fly to Kitty Hawk, N.C., site of the Wright brothers’ historic first flight, before returning home.
The Air Race Classic is the longest running transcontinental air race that features all-female pilots. The teams will have stops in Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado and Oklahoma before finishing the 2,450-mile competition in Arkansas.
“All the flight training I’ve done now so far is in a controlled environment,” Hutchinson said, referring to her experience in the cockpit in MTSU classes, “so this air race is about real-world environment. Anything can happen. It’s really going to test our pilot skills as to if we can handle it, whatever situation happens.”
Taylor added that pilots have no shortcut for experience.
“The biggest thing is the experience, 65 hours of logged time,” she said. “If you put a monetary value on it, it’s about $10,000 (worth of flight time each). … We’re getting that 65 hours of experience to help us get the jobs that we’re looking for.
“Also, we’re getting the experience that we’ve never had to deal with. So we’re going to have to sharpen our skills with cross-country flight planning. We’re going to have to really understand aircraft performance. And it’s really going to push us as pilots, as well as the plane, in seeing what all we can get out of it.”
Hutchinson enrolled at MTSU planning to study animal biology. In 2011, admittedly “bored” with her choice of major, she said she was “walking somewhere on campus” and “looked up and saw a Diamond (aircraft).”
Not realizing it was part of the university’s fleet of planes, Hutchinson recalled: “I said to myself, ‘I’m going to be a pilot.’ This was my mid-college crisis. I didn’t want to do that (study animal biology); I’m too spontaneous. I didn’t even know MTSU had a flight school. It was fate, and it all worked out for me.”
Crews in this week’s Air Race Classic will face challenging decisions and conditions to complete the cross-county flight in their quest to make the top 10 and earn awards.
Taylor and Hutchinson are raising funds to pay for their flight fuel and other expenses; MTSU’s aerospace department agreed to pay for their lodging. Supporters who want to contribute to the women’s expense fund can visit their “Pair of Aces” site at http:/gofundme.com/air-raiders-race.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)