Madeline Hooks and Jeanné Willerth

June 11, 2022

Jeanné Willerth will be flying her 8th National or International air race when she competes in the 2022 Air Race Classic, oldest air race of its kind.

Willerth was taught to fly when young by her mother, a “Powder Puff” Derby air racer. She teamed with her mother and flew her first air race 50 years ago this year.

Willerth will take to the skies from June 21 to 24, 2022, in the 45th Air Race Classic (ARC), the oldest airplane race of its kind in the United States. She is a single and multi-engine rated flight instructor and Airline Transport Rated pilot. She is a two-time Master Certified Flight Instructor and was the 2015 Flight Instructor of the Year for the FAA Central Region.

For this year’s race, Willerth will team with missionary pilot/mechanic apprentice, Madeline Hooks, formerly of Warsaw, IN. Hooks is a commercial pilot and flight instructor. She is currently working to be an airplane mechanic in Bolivar, MO. She plans to enter the mission field when finished with her training.

Willerth and Hooks will compete against 49 teams, flying a 2,548-mile route from beautiful Central Florida to Terre Haute, Indiana. They will be flying in Willerth’s Cessna 182. Since both pilots are now from Missouri, they are flying as team Classic 39, “MO Madness”. You can track and follow the race contestants in real time flying to the race start on the internet starting June 16, 2022. You can then track their race progress starting June 21st at https://airraceclassic2022.maprogress.com/.

They will be 2 of more than 100 women pilots from across the country and around the world flying in this year’s race, which begins in Lakeland, Florida, and ends in Terre Haute, Indiana.

This historic contest traces its roots to the 1929 Women’s Air Derby, aka the Powder Puff Derby, in which Amelia Earhart and 19 other daring female pilots raced from Santa Monica, CA, to Cleveland, OH. That competition marked the beginning of women’s air racing in the United States. Today, the ARC is the epicenter of women’s air racing, the ultimate test of piloting skill and aviation decision-making for female pilots of all ages and from all walks of life.

The race will begin at 8 a.m. June 21 at Lakeland Linder International Airport in Lakeland, with teams taking off one right after another, 30 seconds apart. From there, the field will spread out as faster planes move to the head of the pack. At each stop — Moultrie, Georgia; Muscle Shoals, Alabama; Hattiesburg, Mississippi; Pine Bluff, Arkansas; Ada, Oklahoma; Lawrence, Kansas; Mt. Vernon, Illinois; Tullahoma, Tennessee; and a flyover in Washington, Indiana — teams will execute a high-speed flyby over a timing line as they race against the clock. Faster planes may cover the course in only two days; slower teams may not arrive at the Terminus, Terre Haute Regional Airport in Terre Haute, Indiana, until moments before the arrival deadline at 5 p.m. on June 24.

Because each plane receives a unique handicap, teams are racing against their own best time, not against one another. This creates a level playing field, so slower planes can compete against faster aircraft on an equal basis. Teams strategize to play the elements, holding out for better weather or seeking more favorable winds, to beat their handicap by the greatest margin. Official standings aren’t determined until after the last team has crossed the finish line – the last arrival at the Terminus may, in fact, be the winner.

The ARC draws competitors of all ages, from teenagers to veteran pilots in their 90s, and from all walks of life, from college students to professional airline pilots to military veterans to teachers, writers, doctors and businesswomen. For some teams, the ARC is a family affair, with multiple generations competing together every year. For others, the ARC presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience parts of the country far from home. For all, it is a chance to engage in fierce competition while sharing their love of flying – especially with young people – expanding their knowledge and skill as pilots, and encouraging the next generation of brave, fearless women to take to the air.

Air Race Classic Inc. is an all-volunteer, nonprofit 501(c)3 organization with a mission of encouraging and educating current and future female pilots, increasing public awareness of general aviation, demonstrating women’s roles in aviation, and preserving and promoting the tradition of pioneering women in aviation. For more information, go to airraceclassic.org. Follow Air Race Classic on Facebook. #MissouriPilot #JeanneWillerth On Twitter: @AuthenticARC.

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