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Crossroads pilots win Air Race Classic

By Melissa Crowe
June 25, 2012 at 1:25 a.m.

From left, co-pilot Victoria Holt; Hal Shevers, founder of Sporty's Pilot Shop; and pilot Dianna Stanger celebrate their Racing Aces win Saturday at Clermont County Airport in Batavia, Ohio.

After an incredible journey spanning four days, eight states and 2,862 miles, Diana Stanger and Victoria Holt are flying back to the Crossroads with new nicknames: "The Racing Aces."

The two pilots placed first in the 36th annual Women's Air Race Classic against 56 other teams from across the U.S.

The race dates back to the 1920s and has seen competition from some of aviation's most notable women pilots.

"You feel like Amelia Earhart is patting you on the back," Stanger said.

Stanger, of Port Lavaca, and Holt, of Belton, took off from Calhoun County Airport Thursday in a Cirrus SR-22 toward their starting point in Lake Havasu, Ariz., and reached their final destination, Batavia, Ohio, by Friday.

Stanger said landing was a great feeling.

"Last year we did it in a slow plane and half the race was canceled because of weather," she said. "This year, we took all our experiences from last year ... We were the only team to finish this year that had a tailwind for the entire route because we planned our wind so well."

Stanger said one of the biggest challenges was sitting out for more than a day to re-evaluate their strategy.

"The hardest part is sitting on the ground listening to 30 planes blow past you, thinking your plan is better than theirs," Stanger said. But she and Holt knew if they waited, they could get more speed.

The race is geared toward encouraging women to become pilots, increasing public awareness of aviation, demonstrating women's roles in aviation and promoting the tradition of pioneering women in the field.

While Stanger and Holt do not necessarily have "mentors," Stanger said as teammates, they knew it was something they wanted to conquer.

"Only 7 percent of all pilots are female. That's probably the lowest average of any profession," she said.

Money raised from the race will support girls aviation scholarships.

Michael Wolf, president and CEO of Sporty's Pilot Shop, where the contest finished, said it was good to see so many women involved in aviation. He said he wants to see more women break through the barriers of aviation.

"Aviation has made our country strong," he said. "More women in aviation will only make the country stronger."

This was the third time his shop was the terminus.

"We were very proud and honored to be a part of this iconic race," Wolf said.

The winning team flies 150 hours together each year.

"When we work, we know what each other's duties are, we trust each other," Stanger said. "There's no other race, even in the male-dominated field, that does this."



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