NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Two Tennessee Flight Training pilots competed in the national 2022 Women's Air Race Classic starting in Lakeland, Florida, and ending by 5:00 Friday in Terre Haute, Indiana.
"To me, it's just a big bucket list item but you know, it's just one of those things that you're using like all of your cross-country planning and weather planning and, I mean, you're just using it to the nth degree, to do as best you can and just fly that airplane as best you can," said Bunnie Ambrose, Women's Air Race Classic Pilot and Tennessee Flight School instructor.
Ambrose, who flies and teaches at the Tennessee Flight School as a hobby, asked 25-year-old Alexa Baumgartner to be her teammate in the 45th Annual Air Race Classic.
The race is the oldest of its kind in the United States, tracing its roots back to the 1929 Women's Air Derby which Amelia Earhart raced in.
Baumgartner was introduced to planes at just 18-years-old when she started working for Delta Airlines as a gate agent.
"I was like, ‘It would be really cool to fly one of those.’ Then I became a flight attendant and I was like, 'OK, this is not the right side of the door for me. I want to be on the other side of the door,'" Baumgartner explained.
Both women have achieved at least 100 hours of pilot in command training, allowing them to participate in the race.
"You're racing your own time because there are different kinds of airplanes that are gonna be in the race. Some are faster and slower than others," Ambrose said. "I had to go up and do a flight with a certified pilot who works with the race. We had to go up and fly basically 12 minutes square, so we had to fly three minutes go in each direction as fast as the plane would go, we had to full throttle it. And she would write down the speeds, you know, every minute, and so we got to average speed. That's like the fastest the point you know, and so that's what we have to beat at the end of the race."
The race lasted 10 days and the teams had between eight to 10 stops along the way.
"It's a lot of flight planning exactly. And figuring out the almost the best time of day to go. Instead of just waking up in the morning and being like, ‘Oh, I think we should go right now.’ We have to really plan out how our day is going to go," Baumgartner said.
The team was the only pair competing in the race from Nashville and representing Tennessee Flight Training.
"We get the opportunity to represent the community because about 8% of all pilots are women. So being able to have all of the women compete, and that's all it's open to, it's really unique," said Baumgartner.
In a male-dominated industry, the team hopes they inspire other women to try out flying.
"Chase your dreams and your goals," Ambrose said.
Baumgartner echoed her sentiment.
"Flying is for everybody, you know? You never know you're gonna love something until you try it," Baumgartner said.
To track the team in plane No. 10, visit the Air Race Classic's tracker.