January 21, 2015

Saluki aviators to compete in Air Race Classic

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Four women in Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Aviation Management and Flight program will compete in June in the 2015 Air Race Classic. 

The two teams will be among those competing in the air race, which will cover about 2,400 nautical miles in four days, June 22-25. The 39th annual event will start in Fredericksburg, Va., and end in Fairhope, Ala.  The “All Women’s Cross Country Air Race” continues a tradition started with 1929 Women’s Air Derby, where famed aviator Amelia Earhart and 19 other female pilots flew from Santa Monica, Calif., to Cleveland, Ohio. 

One SIU team is comprised of Stephanie Armstrong, a May 2013 aviation management graduate from Seneca, who is an assistant instructor and assistant coach with the Flying Salukis, and Jessica Reed, a senior in aviation management from Schaumberg. The second SIU team is Sarah Demkovich, a graduate assistant from Algonquin who is majoring in public administration with an emphasis in aviation business, and Emily Frasca, a senior in aviation management and flight from Champaign who is a member of the Flying Salukis. 

José R. Ruiz, professor and chair of the Department of Aviation Management and Flight, said competing in the event is an opportunity to showcase the program and its students. This is the third year SIU Carbondale is competing -- three teams competed in 2010 and one team competed in 2011. The 2011 team of Erin Jackson and Melanie Murdock finished fifth among 43 finishing teams and third out of 11 teams in the collegiate division. 

“The Air Race Classic presents an opportunity for our talented female aviators to exercise their airmanship and strategic decision-making skills.  We are fortunate to have two outstanding teams representing SIU in this year’s competition,” Ruiz said. 

The Department of Aviation Management and Flight is allowing the teams to use two Cessna 172R planes and also paying fuel and maintenance costs. The teams are responsible for other expenses including lodging and food.