MTSU student pilots race across country in 2018 Air Race Classic

Gabriella Lindskoug and Jordan Cantrell pose with their racing plane in Murfreesboro, Tenn. (Photo courtesy Gabriella Lindskoug)

Photo courtesy of Gabriella Lindskoug

Gabriella Lindskoug and Jordan Cantrell are two pilots who love a great challenge. Both MTSU seniors are racing across the country in the 2018 Air Race Classic, an all-women’s aviation race.

Lindskoug, an aerospace major with a professional pilot concentration, and Cantrell, a psychology major with minors in chemistry and aviation, began the race in Sweetwater, Texas. There, the girls got to see Avenger’s Field, where the first women military pilots to serve in World War II did their training. They are currently in route to Fryeburg, Maine. They have four days to complete the race, and they must be in Maine on Friday.

Qualifications to participate in the race for the pilots include a private or higher airman’s certificate with a rating for the class airplane that will be flown, a minimum of 100 hours as pilot in command, a medical certificate, proof of a required flight review or rating and a minimum of 500 hours of pilot in command or a current instrument rating. In addition, pilots must have either a student pilot or higher airman’s certificate, a minimum of five total hours in an airplane and a minimum of 500 hours as pilot in command or a current instrument rating.

The race is won on a points system. If the plane is supposed to be flown at 150 miles an hour, a point is earned if the plane is flown at 151 miles per hour. The more points the team wins, the closer they are to being in the top ten places that receive $18,000 total in prize money. Lindskoug and Cantrell competed as a team last year and placed 26 out of 56.

“We didn’t really know what we were jumping into,” Lindskoug said.

The team saw the race as a challenge and way to better their flying. Last year, Lindskoug and Cantrell traveled around 4,000 miles in the cross-country round trip. This year, they plan to fly around the same amount in different conditions.

“It really pushes you as a pilot,” Cantrell said. “We (will) fly about 3,000 miles.”

The race allows the team to see environments they haven’t seen or flown in before. They get to experience different weather conditions, such as strong storms or different density altitudes. Each team is only allowed to fly between sunrise and sunset, and they must remain below the clouds and visible always.

“You really have to learn to read the weather and make split decisions under pressure, which we would have to do in real life as pilots,” Cantrell said.

Lindskoug and Cantrell made up the only team from Tennessee last year. This year, MTSU has two teams competing in the race with seniors Elizabeth Keller and Madison Taylor also participating.

Lindskoug, an Alpha Omicron Pi sorority member, said that she would love to see her “little,” who is also studying aviation, to participate in the race one day. Sororities often pair new members with members who have been in the sorority for a year or more. They are paired together as “big” and “little” sisters.

“We want to make this an opportunity for all women in aviation,” Lindskoug said.

The race is running under very safe conditions. All pilots must undergo online training before the race, and there are two debriefings the pilots must participate in. There is one debriefing before the race and one after.

“We love the competitiveness and to be surrounded by women,” Lindskoug said.

Women up to age 80 participate in the race. They each come from different flight backgrounds; some are Air Force veterans or Southwest Airlines Co. captains. The girls say they get to compete against some of the best women from across the country. They believe competing with these women will make them better pilots.

On their way back home from Maine, the girls will get to fly through New York City, one of the most congestive airways in the country. They will also fly around the Statue of Liberty and over the Hudson River, where they can fly lower than most other aircraft and see the terrain they fly over.

To contact news Editor Caleb Revill, email

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