- Associated Press - Sunday, June 14, 2015

IONIA, Mich. (AP) - Two local women will be racing a small airplane a long way this June.

Ionia County Airport Assistant Manager and pilot, Maggie Wint, and co-pilot, Hellen Hagg of Grand Ledge, will be flying a 1970 Cessna Cardinal in the Air Race Classic on June 22-25. The all-women pilot race traces its roots to a 1929 race that included Amelia Earhart.

“Just like car racing, you’re going full throttle,” Wint said. “One of the (best) things about the race is it lets people know women can fly, and can they fly very well.”

The duo’s plane can travel up to 140 knots, or 166 mph, The Sentinel-Standard (https://bit.ly/1RCN6C2 ) reported.

Wint started taking flying lessons in 2002 and got her license in 2004, before buying the Cardinal in 2008. She also participated in the Air Classic Race in 2012.

“We didn’t get last, but we may have got second to last,” Wint said. “I was still a little green.”

Hagg has been flying since 2010. This will be her first time participating in the race.

“When Maggie first asked me if wanted to, I was excited and amazed she asked me,” Hagg said.

While Hagg currently works at the Grand Ledge airport, she hopes to ultimately do missionary aviation in Third-World countries.

In the 1929 race, only one pilot might have flown the plane, but things have changed. The pair will take turns flying the Cessna, which is a four-seat, 180 horse-power, single-engine plane.

The Air Classic Race can change slightly each year, sometimes being cross-country, or like this year, being more north-south. The 2015 race starts in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and has nine stops, including a stop in Kalamazoo, before ending in Fairhope, Alabama.

The planes will do a flyover at each stop, 200-400 feet off the ground.

The start of the race is intense, with planes taking off every 30 seconds. It’s handicapped, so the newest or fastest plane won’t automatically win. The winner will be determined by flying skills, with the first-place finisher bringing home a $10,000 prize.

Wint wasn’t brought up in a flying family, but she always had an interest in the open sky.

“I grew up watching the big planes land at the Philadelphia airport,” Wint said. “I’ve always been an enthusiast, but life got in the way.”

However, once her kids grew up and moved out of the house, she had time to pursue her passion. But that doesn’t mean she still doesn’t get nervous up in the air.

“It does get scary sometimes when it gets bumpy - it’s much more noticeable than in a commercial plane,” Wint said. “It’s good to be a little scared; you wouldn’t be normal if you weren’t.”

They don’t carry parachutes, but they will carry flotation devices. Wint said flying over the Great Lakes is the most challenging flight she’s had.

“I can’t do Ferris wheels or ladders, but I can fly,” Wint said. “A lot of pilots are afraid of heights, but it’s different when you’re moving in a plane. You just see the horizon.”

Their team name for the race is “The Flying Nomads,” and their entry number in the race is 34. The community can follow each leg of the race online by visiting airraceclassic.org.

The duo will be back for in time for Ionia’s School of Missionary Aviation Community Day on June 28.

“It will be a nice welcome back,” Hagg said.


Information from: The Sentinel-Standard, https://www.sentinel-standard.com

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