UND Women’s Flying Team
On this date in 1914 the Weekly Times Record of Valley City announced on the front page that “Miss Katherine Stinson, the aviatrice” would be attending the Barnes County Fair. Miss Stinson was one of the first women in the US to earn a pilot’s certificate.
To this day, piloting is a male dominated profession. Women in Aviation International reported that only 6% of pilots were women as of 2017. However, more and more women enter this career path every year. Among them are the female students at the University of North Dakota’s John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences.
It was in this date in 2013, that Amy Warbalow, a flight student from UND and her flight supervisor, Katrina Kugler became the first UND team to compete in the Air Race Classic. The Classic is an all-women’s race, offering an opportunity for women of all skill levels and backgrounds to compete. It is a four-day race, covering approximately 2,400 miles, stopping in multiple cities.
The Air Race Classic began in 1929, then known as the “Women’s Air Derby.” Races continued annually until World War II. In 1947, the race resumed as the “All Women's Transcontinental Air Race,” but it was unofficially known as the “Powder Puff Derby.” Among the first to compete in the race were flying legends Louise Thaden, Jackie Cochran, and Amelia Earhart. In 1977 it took on the official name it has today, and is run as a non-profit educational organization.
In the early years of the race, competitors raced against one another to each destination in the same weather conditions. Today, each plane is given a specific handicap speed according to its flight capabilities. Each team races to beat their own handicap speed, with the option to wait for ideal weather. The planes are not actually racing. It’s more a test of flight skills.
The Air Race Classic is beneficial to North Dakota teams in particular because its transcontinental span allows the pilots to experience terrain and weather not found in the state. UND’s flight school has continued to participate in the Air Race Classic, celebrating airmanship, teamwork, and celebrating an ever-broadening community of women pilots.
Dakota Datebook by Maria Witham
The weekly times-record., June 18, 1914, page 9