Daddy's Christmas Angel

Friday, June 13, 2014

Air Race Classic Promotes Aviation Pilot Careers for Women

Next week, I'll be following the progress of one plane, a 1961 twin-engine Beechcraft Travel Air, piloted by Alicia Sikes (our daughter) and Emily Lewis, in the Air Race Classic. They will start the race in Concord CA on June 16 and continue to the final destination, New Cumberland PA, a distance of 2300 miles. This event is designed to encourage more women to enter careers as pilots. (Fewer than seven percent of all U. S. pilots are women.)

Air races for women began in 1929 with the First Women's Air Derby that started in Santa Monica CA and ended in Cleveland OH. These races continued on through the 1930s, were halted during World War II, then resumed as All Women's Transcontinental Air Race (Powder Puff Derby). The final AWTAR event was held in 1977. The Air Race Classic, Ltd. took its place and was reincorporated in 2002 as Air Race Classic, Inc., a non-profit 501(c)3 organization.

"Alicia's RG at West Point Airport 2008" ©MMSikes
In the past few years, I've learned a lot about airplanes, flying, and the pioneering career of one woman who fell in love with aviation and became a pilot, much to my surprise. Alicia's career started near the end of her senior year at the Honors College of the University of South Carolina when she began taking flying lessons at Eagle Aviation, Columbia Metro Airport. Once she received her private pilot's license, there was no looking back, even though she also had just earned a BS degree in computer science. She began instructing at Eagle and then at Midlands Aviation at Owens Field, Columbia. From there she went on to become a Beech 99 Captain for Air New Orleans, based in Birmingham, Alabama. Her career eventually took her to TWA where she was the first female to checkout on the B767. At one point, I recall her flying into Egypt. Most of her time with TWA was spent flying the B727 which she loved. During that period, her sister Amy and I stayed with her when she was in Vienna, Austria, flying to Istanbul, Turkey. Alicia is currently a MD80 Captain with American Airlines (which purchased TWA). Along the way, Alicia inspired her sister Allison to become involved in aviation. Allison earned her private pilot's license while attending graduate school in polymer science at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Emily Lewis comes from an aviation family. Her grandfather ran a flight school, and her father is a Captain with American Airlines. She started flying at age 14 and earned her private pilot's license at age 17. She is currently in her third year at Salisbury University where she is studying atmospheric sciences and environmental and land use planning.

For the Air Race Classic, Alicia and Emily are Team Friendly Flyers (Team #48).

Emily "would love to inspire others not only to pursue the field of aviation, but to pursue their own ambitious dreams as well."

Alicia "is looking forward to viewing a lot of fantastic scenery from lower altitudes, and helping Emily figure out how to do a successful long cross-country flight in a twin engine." She "would love to help the other teams by passing along any wisdom to other pilots."
For the race, I hope they have good weather all the way. Following Alicia has always been an exciting journey for our family. This is yet another adventure. 


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That's cool you are friends with one of the top pilots competing!

Mary Montague Sikes said...

Alex, she's our daughter. Didn't make that clear in the post:( Thanks for visiting.

Jennifer Chandler said...

Thank you for stopping by my post the other day and commenting :D

I have always wanted my pilot's license. I was able to go up in a small Cessna fifteen years ago and the pilot let me control her for a while. It was amazing! I think it's wonderful that your daughter is a pilot and encouraging other women to do the same.


Mary Montague Sikes said...

Thank you, Jennifer. It's an adventurous profession!