Prescott Pilots Prepare to Take Flight in Air Derby

This year’s Air Race Classic may look a little different, but two teams of dedicated female aviators at the Prescott Campus are ready to rise to the challenge.

The Prescott Campus Flight Line with Granite Mountain in the background
The Prescott Campus Flight Line with Granite Mountain in the background (Image: Embry-Riddle/Connor McShane)

Two female flight teams from the Prescott Campus are set to compete in the 2021 Air Race Classic (ARC) collegiate competition in June. Dating back to the first Women’s Air Derby in 1929, the race aims to educate and champion women in aviation.

This annual competition is one of many impacted by the pandemic. Traditionally, around 50 teams will fly a set route over four days from one starting point with the goal of achieving the best ground speed.

For this year’s Air Derby, teams are planning their own routes from a home base, creating and submitting a detailed flight plan. The pilots will then have to match their submitted flight plans as closely as possible when they execute their routes.

Out of almost 30 applicants, six were selected to represent Embry-Riddle in the prestigious competition. Each team is comprised of a pilot, co-pilot and teammate with varying levels of experience. The pilots in command for each team are certified flight instructors, while flight team members are still working toward their certifications.

“It’s a difficult selection process, which speaks to the type of pilots these women are,” said Team 2 Training Manager Naomi Manzira.

Along with an opportunity to network with other women in the industry, the competition ultimately provides students with the practical experience needed to operate safely and efficiently as aviation professionals, said Aviation Safety Program Manager Hannah Rooney.

“The courses they take here are so structured,” she said. “When you actually go out in the industry to fly, you need to make really good decisions without being able to pre-plan.”

While the percentage of women in the aviation industry is low, participating in events like the Air Race Classic gives female flight students an opportunity to share their passion and execute their craft, said Team 1 Captain Brooke Harrower.

Growing up, she remembers watching the Reno Air Races with her family, who nurtured her curiosity and passion for aviation. She is especially thankful to have been chosen as a captain, adding that she looks forward to learning from her teammates and contributing her own knowledge and expertise.

Harrower graduated with her bachelor’s degree in Aeronautical Science and minor in Air Traffic Management in 2018. Now, she works in the Flight Training Department at Embry-Riddle Prescott as a Team Standards Flight Supervisor.

The teams are currently working to design optimal flight plans based on their aircraft and projected weather conditions.

“Hours of preparation go into this race,” she said. “Seeing it all come together will be unforgettable.”