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June 22, 2019


This 43rd Annual Air Race Classic marks an unprecedented year for aviation enthusiasts, as it’s the first Air Race Classic, (ARC) finishing in Ontario at the Niagara Central Dorothy Rungeling Airport NCDRA in Pelham on June 21st. Up to 51 teams of women pilots will test their flying knowledge and skills travelling more than 2,400 miles. Starting June 18th, the pilots will leave Jackson, Tennessee, veering south to Georgia, and westward to Arkansas, before heading north through Minnesota and crossing into Canada through Sault Ste. Marie before landing at the NCDRA. The race team with the best handicapped time wins.

What makes this event unique? This prestigious racing competition ends in Ontario for the first time in history, which is where all the main celebrations are held. Our local inspiration for women’s aviation and avid air racer, Dorothy Rungeling, whom the airport is named after, will posthumously receive a plaque dedicated in her honour, and to celebrate 90 years of flying by the Ninety-Nines, an international organization of female pilots. Rungeling flew in several Canadian and international air races including, the All Women’s International Air Race and the Canadian Governor-General’s Cup Air Race decades ago when women were not traditionally accepted as pilots. According to Skies Magazine statistics, women are still under-represented in the aviation industry, and this event will include several educational activities for interested persons.

ARC’s board of directors and volunteers are, “Thrilled to be celebrating 90 years of women’s air racing,” said Lara Gaerte, president of the U.S.-based ARC. “The women who fly the ARC are as bold and tenacious as the pioneering pilots, who competed in the original 1929 Women’s Air Derby. We look forward to welcoming back veteran racers, and meeting new competitors at the 43rd Air Race Classic.”

This race officially begins at the McKellar-Sipes Regional Airport in Tennessee, June 18th with teams departing 30 seconds apart, and the faster planes quickly leading the journey. At each of the nine en route stops, teams will execute high-speed flybys over a timing line, that monitors them as they race against the clock. They may also land to refresh or refuel.

Prior to the race, each plane, depending on its engine-size, performance power and speed is given a handicap, so pilots are racing and challenging their own best time. This also creates a level playing field, so slower planes can equally compete against faster aircraft. Teams have to strategize during the race, and consider the atmospheric and geographic elements, in order to beat their handicap by the greatest margin. Official standings aren’t determined until after the last team has crossed the finish line, and the judging is completed. The last arrival at the terminus may, in fact, be the winner, noted Gaerte.

“Competing in a handicapped race is safe, because planes aren’t interfering with each other or zooming across the finish line,” said Peter Van Caulart, Co-Chair for 2019 Air

Race Classic Terminus Committee. “The race tests the quality of the teams’ skill level, and also gives them the air miles they need to pursue aviation careers, especially for the larger commercial airlines.” “Winning the Air Race Classic is definitely a feather in anyone’s cap,” he said.

The local chapter of The Ninety-Nines is also making a dedication for its Compass Rose Project at this time. Cathy Boyko, co-chair of the local committee said: “Dorothy Rungeling would be thrilled that we have dedicated the airport and a plaque in her honour during the Air Race Classic.”

Throughout June 22nd, the public is invited to come out and explore the airport, and its many activities and giveaways, especially for youth. In addition to the afternoon ceremonies, The 2019 Air Race Classic is offering give aways for tandem jumps, and introductory flying lessons through the St. Catharines Flying Club between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Airplane rides will be available at an economical price. A Fly Market, as well as career and educational booths on aviation, a meet and greet with the racers, photo-ops with a vintage plane, and a car show will all be a part of the public event. On Sunday evening, a special dinner and banquet will award prizes including: medallions, trophies and cash prizes of $5,000, $3,000 and $2,000 for the three best scores.

This event is expected to generate a $650,000 impact on the local economy as hotels, local restaurants, shops and entertainment spots will be frequented by the pilots, and their families visiting Niagara from the U.S., many of them for the first time.

Historically, the Air Race Classic dates back 43 years, with its roots tracing back to the 1929 Women’s Air Derby, which included renowned pilot, Amelia Earhart, flying from Santa Monica, California to Cleveland, Ohio. That event was so successful it became a tradition. The Air Race Classic is now the epicenter of women racing, and a non-profit organization in the U.S.

Locally, the 2019 ARC terminus committee is supported by a group of local volunteers, and involves several other non-profit organizations, such as the 87th Squadron of Air Cadets, The Pelham Lions Club, and Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA). Anyone interested in volunteering or being a part of this exciting event can visit our websites: www.centralairport.ca to rent a table in our Fly Market for $20, which is the best deal for promoting any business or organization.

This airport dates back to World War II, when thousands of airports were set up across Canada as a part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. Since then, many of these airports have deteriorated and were torn down. Niagara area residents are fortunate to still have this historical site, which has since expanded. The 2019 Air Race Classic will also give Niagara area residents and visitors an opportunity to celebrate and explore this enduring landmark and achievement.


June 22, 2019
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