Kent State Pilots Compete in Air Race for Women

KENT, Ohio – The first pair Kent State University female pilots will race 2,700 miles across the country in an effort to win the historic Air Race Classic.

The competition is the oldest of its kind with roots that can be traced back to the 1929 Women’s Air Derby, in which Amelia Earhart and 19 other female pilots raced from California to Cleveland.

This year’s race features 130 women pilots of all ages and all backgrounds, including two from Kent State. Jalia Manga is a flight technology major in Kent State’s College of Applied Engineering, Sustainability and Technology. Carissa Marion is a Kent State flight instructor and graduate of the university.

Manga and Marion will start the race June 21 in Prescott, Ariz.. They are given four days to make fly-bys at each  timing point and then land at the terminus. The course passes through 12 states before ending in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Because planes travel at different speeds, each one receives a unique handicap. Instead of racing against each other, the teams are racing against their own best time. They need to strategically plan for the weather in order to beat their handicap by the greatest margin.

Prizes include $16,500 in cash, medallions and trophies.

This is the first year that a Kent State student has participated in the Air Race Classic. The team will be mentored by Lt. Col. Sarah Deal Burrow, who was sponsored by the university in a previous race. Burrow was the first female marine selected for Naval Aviation Training, and the Marine Corps’ first female aviator in 1993. She graduated from Kent State in 1992 (with a B.S. degree in aerospace flight technology.

The team will fly in a Cessna Sky Hawk awarded to Kent State after receiving the unique distinction as a 2016 Top Hawk university. The aircraft is named Nikki in celebration of the life of Nicole “Nikki” Kukwa, an exemplary Kent State aeronautics student who helped establish the Women in Aeronautics Club, and served as an inspiration to those who knew her. Kukwa died from leukemia during her junior year. In her honor, a free aeronautics camp for high school girls takes place annually.

Pictured: Carissa Marion and Jalia Manga are the first female pilot team from Kent State to compete in the Air Race Classic.

SOURCE: Kent State news service.

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