Photos courtesy of Gabriella Lindskoug
Two MTSU students participated in the 2017 Air Race Classic last week, an all-women’s race that spanned 2,649 miles across the United States.
Pilot Gabriella Lindskoug, 20, is an aerospace major with a professional pilot concentration. She is also a member of Alpha Omicron Pi. Co-pilot Jordan Cantrell, 27, is on the pre-medical track with a major in psychology and minors in chemistry and aviation.
The students flew from Frederick, Maryland to Santa Fe, New Mexico during the four-day racing period. Neither of them had participated in the race before, and as some of the youngest racers, they were only barely qualified to participate. In order to take part in the race, the pilot needed to have an instrument rating, and the co-pilot needed a private pilot’s license.
Lindskoug said that she first heard about the Air Race Classic two years ago when some participants from the race came through Murfreesboro’s airport. She said that it seemed like something she would love to do someday, but she had no idea that day would be so soon.
In the fall semester of 2016, Cantrell texted Lindskoug asking if she would be interested in flying with her for this year’s race. The answer was an emphatic yes. The pair worked diligently through the application materials.
“There was a lot of paperwork,” Lindskoug said.
The race required extensive information about each pilot’s experience, flight training and the aircraft they would use.
She said that she and Cantrell had to figure out a lot of the application for themselves. To their knowledge, they are the first MTSU students to ever participate in the race.
Because they had little experience compared to other participants, Lindskoug said they had all their application materials ready to submit before the online portal opened.
“As soon as the minute rolled over, we submitted our application,” Lindskoug said. “We didn’t want to take any chances.”
When the pair found out that they were accepted into the race, training began. Lindskoug said that the biggest part of preparing for the Air Race Classic was becoming familiar with their aircraft.
“We had to really learn how the plane flies,” Lindskoug said.
They flew in Cantrell’s Cessna 172 Skyhawk, trying their best to earn points by beating the plane’s projected speed. As Lindskoug explained it, if a plane is supposed to go 150 miles per hour, and it actually flies at 151 miles per hour, then it earns a point.
The overall results of the race were determined by these points because contestants brought their own aircraft, which varied greatly in speed and size.
Lindskoug and Cantrell finished 26 out of 56 based on their points. Lindskoug said she was proud.
“We flew a good, clean race, and we didn’t get many penalties,” she said. “Somebody told us that we still beat women who have been racing for over 20 years.”
Lindskoug and Cantrell also beat teams from Liberty University, Auburn University and Purdue University’s flying club.
The top 10 finishers in the race received a total of $18,000 dollars in prize money. Even though Lindskoug and Cantrell didn’t place, Lindskoug said they plan on racing again next year.
“110 percent,” Lindskoug said. “We’ve already designed a t-shirt for next year!”
More than anything, Lindskoug said that the Air Race Classic was an incredible learning experience.
“We never knew what was going to happen the next day,” she said. On the first night the team had planned on going to Minnesota, but due to a large storm, they spent the night in Indianapolis.
On the first night, the team had planned on going to Minnesota, but due to a large storm, they spent the night in Indianapolis.
The team flew places they had never been before, encountering unfamiliar weather and terrain. Lindskoug said that while flying around Nashville, she never had to navigate around deserts or mountains. When she flew through the Rocky Mountains, she said the aircraft couldn’t climb the 14,000 feet necessary to clear them, and they had to go between them.
At the end of the race, Lindskoug reflected on her experiences.
“I got to meet so many women in aviation… Being around 118 women who have a passion for aviation made me love flying even more,” Lindskoug said.
She said that there are not many women in the aviation field, and they had to work hard to get where they are now. There was a time when women were barred from competing in air races and discriminated against when they could compete.
Lindskoug called the Air Race Classic “a memorial for all the women that came before us.”
In a Facebook post describing her experience, Lindskoug said, “I have met so many great women from across the country in aviation and have made lifelong friends. The aviation industry is an incredible community and I’m still shocked I get to fly for a profession.”
To contact News Editor Andrew Wigdor, email email@example.com.
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