UND and the Air Race Classic

Sadie Blace, Reporter

The Air Race Classic, founded in 1977, is an annual race that provides women of all ages and aviation ratings to race against one another while positively representing and impacting women around the world. While the start of the Air Race Classic is hosted in various locations annually, this year Grand Forks has the prestigious honor of hosting. In mid-June, around 60 teams will migrate to Grand Forks for the start of yet another historical event. Women from ages 17-90 partake in the race each year, making it extremely impactful for both the racers and the supporters on the ground.  

 Historically, UND has formed teams of women filling four positions; Pilot, Copilot, Navigator and Ground Coordinator. Each position possesses its own tasks, together making teams successful year after year. This year, I have the incredible honor of being the team’s Copilot. The Powder Puff Derby inspired race consists of a journey across the country of over 2,400 nautical miles and is flown in just a couple of days over the summer. Throughout the race, teams can compete to win prizes and titles. Teams that do not compete are categorized in the “noncompetitive” category and are still able to fly alongside all the teams from start to finish. However, if you are involved, there is no doubt that it is an incredibly inspiring opportunity that many can partake in and enjoy.  

As previously mentioned, each job is crucial to the proper functioning of the team. The pilot is tasked with being PIC, or Pilot-in Command, of the aircraft throughout the duration of the race. This means that each decision made is at the ultimate discretion of the Pilot. The race this year starts in Grand Forks, ND and is flown through a variety of stops all the way to Homestead, FL. With a route of over 2,400 nautical miles, the Pilot makes especially important decisions for the team, including decisions based on safety and efficiency. This year’s Pilot is Grace Heron. Heron participated in the race last year as the team’s Navigator and is the Pilot this year. The Copilot is tasked with aiding the Pilot in the air race operations. The Copilot may fly the aircraft, make radio calls, and overall assist the Pilot by encouraging the safety and efficiency of flight. I am extremely honored and excited to race in this position this year.  

The team’s Navigator is the individual that keeps the team organized. The Navigator carries all the race rules, fly-by diagrams, and is the main source of contact for the support team on the ground. The Navigator remains in the aircraft with the Pilot and Copilot and ensures a correct flow of information from the ground crew to the crew in the air, while abiding by the competition rules and regulations. This year’s Navigator is Tracy Mitchell. This is Mitchell’s first race, and she is beyond excited to represent the team and the University of North Dakota. The last position, but most definitely not the least, is the Ground Coordinator. The Ground Coordinator oversees all the team’s social media posts. Throughout the race, the girls in the aircraft will send photos to the Ground Coordinator, who will post them regularly to various social media platforms. By making these posts, followers can respond via donations or support through various social media settings. This year, our Ground Coordinator is Ashley Almquist. This is Almquist’s first race as well, and she is so excited to see what the race holds. All the women involved this year are extremely thrilled to race alongside one another, while positively representing the university.  

Preparation for the race looks a little different this year, as we are hosting the start in Grand Forks. Traditionally, the preparation process includes selecting and naming an aircraft deemed suitable for the race, hours of paperwork and registration, and the selection of girls to fill a team. The team is thrilled to have two fresh faces representing the UND Air Race Classic Team. As previously mentioned, Almquist and Mitchell are patiently and excitedly awaiting the adventure of a lifetime. The race starts on June 20th, 2023, here in Grand Forks. The race will conclude in Homestead, Florida on June 23rd, 2023. The race will include dozens of teams representing all age divisions. In the Air Race Classic, there is a noncompetitive, competitive and EDMA category. The EDMA category will be what UND’s team will compete in. EDMA stands for “electronic data monitoring aircraft.” This will allow teams to compete against each other with a fair advantage. Here at UND, our Archer’s, low-wing aircraft, are not equipped to operate at full throttle without exceeding dangerous speeds. With the new EDMA class, UND’s Air Race team will be able to compete and place, paving a new road in this category for UND.  

As we draw closer to the start of the 2023 race here in Grand Forks, there are many ways to prepare. For starters, the UND The Air Race Team can race solely because of donations. The race costs money to sign up for and participate in, and every donation propels our team towards our goal of outreach and inspiring future generations of female aviators. The Air Race Classic has been providing women with the opportunity to race for years. Here at UND, we are a part of history. Year after year, the admitted first-year students here at UND has seen a higher percentage of women. Being a part of and supporting the Air Race Classic team is helping support women in their dreams to pursue successful aviation degrees, careers, and experiences. Being surrounded by such strong women on the team has made me a better pilot and teammate, building memories and friendships that will last indefinitely. One of the biggest goals of the UND Air Race Classic team is outreach. By supporting the Air Race Classic team, donors and supporters can aid in its mission. More information on the race, how to donate, and potential volunteer opportunities will be shared soon. Keep an eye out for updates on the road to getting prepared for this historical event.  


Sadie Blace is a Dakota Student General Reporter. She can be reached at [email protected].