Crossroads pilots compete in Air Race Classic

Elena Watts By Elena Watts

June 11, 2014 at 1:11 a.m.
Updated June 12, 2014 at 1:12 a.m.

Cirrus Aircraft built a special airplane for Dianna Stanger, 52, of Port Lavaca, to fly in the 38th annual Air Race Classic on Monday.

The all-women, four-day, cross-country race starts in Concord, Calif., and ends in New Cumberland, Penn., with 10 stops en route. Fifty teams composed of 115 women are competing, and 13 teams are collegiate.

"Weather is always the biggest challenge," Stanger said.

She and her two teammates - Joyce Wilson, 52, of Bogata; and Erin Cude, 29, of Victoria - call themselves The Racing Aces. The teammates hope the latest technological weather and terrain advancements in the Cirrus SR22 can give them the competitive edge.

Cirrus Aircraft offered to build Stanger a specialty airplane because hers was not eligible to fly in the race. Stanger recently purchased a new Cirrus aircraft, but the race prohibited turbo. The company plans to use the aircraft as a demo after the race.

Among other benefits, the new technology offers the pilots instantaneous weather updates, unlike the hourslong delays that are more customary.

Last year, Stanger and Wilson competed together in the race but did not win. In an effort to beat a weather system that never materialized, the pair crossed the finish line first. Their score did not hold that lead after it was handicapped according to speed.

Cude, an instructor at the Victoria flight school managed by Stanger, called the invitation to join the team an opportunity of a lifetime.

"We wanted to give someone else a chance to experience the race who had never been in it," Stanger said. "She gets the benefit of a team that has already been there, and she offers the team a third set of eyes and ears to make sure all goes well."

Cude is accustomed to flying over the South Texas terrain, so the race offers her a chance to fly coast to coast and over mountains and other unfamiliar territory.

"We get to meet other female pilots, and there are so few," Stanger said. "And we get a bird's-eye view of subtle changes in the terrain that are magnificent."



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