Ladies: Start Your Engines
By Rose Dorcey, ANN Correspondent
An excited young woman
in a gray business suit rushes up to the Air Race Classic booth at
the International Women in Aviation Conference and exclaims, "I
found you! I want to get information about this race and fly in
In the booth, Judy Bolkema-Tokar, president of Air Race Classic,
Inc., gives the woman a warm hug and tells her she has come to the
right place. Questions spew from the future racer's mouth…
Can I fly a Cessna 172? How much will it cost? Do I need
sponsorship? What qualifications do I need?
As a 14-year veteran of the only all-woman, transcontinental air
race, Bolkema-Tokar knows just what to tell the woman. The 2,436
statute mile race is the organization's 29th annual. Race start and
end is at Purdue University, Lafayette (IN). Stops are made in
LaCrosse (WI), Beatrice (NE), Bartlesville (OK), Shreveport (LA),
Walnut Ridge (AR), Tullahoma (TN) and Ohio University in Athens.
The four-day event, held June 21-24, is not based solely on speed,
but on flight planning and the skills of the aviator. Each aircraft
is given a handicap speed and the goal of the racers is to plan
their flight and operate their aircraft in such a manner to fly
faster than the handicapped speed.
The woman listens with growing enthusiasm, the kind you see in
faces throughout the exhibit hall. She tells Bolkema-Tokar that she
is a student at Embry Riddle University. Now it's time for
Bolkema-Tokar to get excited, for she has the pleasure of informing
the woman that two years ago, Air Race Classic organizers created a
new category for collegiate teams, in order to help recruit and
recognize college students. Better yet, a $500 scholarship is
available to Embry Riddle students who compete in the Air Race
Across the exhibit hall, Keri Wiznerowicz is energetically
working the Purdue University booth. Wiznerowicz is a graduate
student and Collegiate Race Coordinator of Air Race Classic 2005.
She and her co-pilot Heidi Moore were the 2003 winners of the
Collegiate Challenge Trophy when they were students at Purdue.
Wiznerowicz shares her race enthusiasm with potential entrants and
reminds them that the race is a perfect chance to put all of their
aviation experience to use, and to become a part of a historic
"It's an awesome experience," said Wiznerowicz (pictured below).
"We have a chance to utilize everything we learn in flight
training, like flight planning and weather analysis, and apply it
to real-life flying experiences." She encourages all women to
consider entering in the event, particularly college students.
"Anyone can fly this race. New pilots or women with years of
Bolkema-Tokar agreed, and said that 40-50 teams of two are
expected to compete. Wiznerowicz is expecting 10-12 collegiate
teams. They both said that the air race is a friendly competition,
and the lady racers rally to help and support one another, even
those who are more competitive than others. For Bolkema-Tokar, the
goal of her 15th Air Race Classic is to plan to finish it. "I'm not
worried about winning it, I'm just going to fly how I learned how