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Calhoun pilot takes off on incredible journey

By BY DIANNA WRAY - DWRAY@VICAD.COM
June 14, 2012 at 1:14 a.m.

Victoria Holt, left, Dianna Stanger, far right, and Calhoun Air Center alumni Larry Robinson.

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Amelia Earhart competed in the first Air Race Classic in 1929. She came in third.

Decades later, Dianna Stanger, a pilot at Calhoun County Airport, is competing in the same race and hoping to do even better.

Stanger, and her co-pilot, Victoria Holt, took off from Calhoun County Airport on Thursday to participate in the 36th annual Air Race Classic, a 2,681 mile race that brings together female pilots from around the world.

Stanger and Holt took off from the airport after a surprise party on Thursday morning. Stanger said it felt good to see people gathered to see them off.

"As pilots, we don't get much of a crowd," she said. "It was a wonderful send off. I think we're still floating from it."

The race begins Tuesday in Lake Havasu, Ariz. The pilots will travel through eight states during the race.

Stanger said the race is challenging because it is four days of nonstop flight planning. The race gives them the chance to fly, seeing parts of the country and meeting people they wouldn't otherwise meet. The best part is having the chance to see so many women pilots gathered together to show their skills.

Flying in a Cirrus SR-22, Stanger and Holt will be competing against 56 other teams in their state-of-the-art aircraft. This is their second time entering the competition.

Stanger is passionate about encouraging girls to enter the aviation world. Any money raised from the race will go to girls aviation scholarships, she said.

"Only about 7 percent of the pilots in the world are women. As females, we're used to being the only females in the airport. It's neat to see so many of us out here flying," she said.

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