NORMAN — Barely a decade after the passage of the 19th Amendment, 20 women pilots blazed a trail for female aviation by competing in the First Women’s Air Derby, flying from Santa Monica, Calif., to Cleveland, OH in 1929.
Today, the tradition of an all-women’s cross country air race lives on in the Air Race Classic, Inc., and the University of Oklahoma College of Continuing Education and Department of Aviation’s Flying Sooners are proud to send their third consecutive duo to represent female aviators at OU.
For teammates Robin Torres and Keenyn Duncan, the race is very much a personal challenge with personal rewards.
“This race spans many generations, and it was amazing for me to meet the older women pilots and see what they have to say about things and what they did then as opposed to now,” Torres said.
“Some of the competitors are in their 80s and 90s, and they competed in the old races,” said Assistant Chief Flight Instructor and ARC Advisor Julie Orrick.
An FAA certified flight instructor and 2012 OU graduate holding a bachelor’s degree in aviation, Torres’ first ARC flight was in 2011 with fellow newcomer Jen Scanlan, and this year she’ll return with ARC newcomer Duncan.
Duncan, a U.S. Air Force active duty veteran who served as an E-3 AWACS airborne mission specialist communications systems operator, is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Aviation at OU.
“I’m excited for the experience. When I was looking into this race, I saw it’s a very popular women’s aviation event and I want to learn more about how to use the environment to get better speed,” Duncan said.
Torres and Duncan will have four days (June 18-21) to complete the 2,400 statute mile course starting in Pasco, Wash., and ending in Fayetteville, Ark., with night flying prohibited.