MEDFORD, Ore. — Two teams of southern Oregon women will take to the skies and compete in a race this week that includes competitors from multiple countries. The five local pilots are among more than 200 women pilots competing in the Air Race Classic Air Derby between June 12 and 26.
"The Cheetah Champs" consists of Monica Weyhe, Patricia Orsini, and Claire Almquist, who will be flying a Grumman Cheetah. "The New Heights Aviatrixes" includes Margueritte Hickman and Leigh Frisbee-Pinkerton, piloting a Cessna 182.
Typically, the Air Race Classic takes place for four days over roughly 2400 nautical miles, with the route changing every year. Due to COVID-19, the ARC Board decided to change the traditional race to an air derby format — allowing each team to create their own route of five legs, at least 65 nautical miles to each leg.
Before flying the route, the teams submit their anticipated time to complete it. Each time will record their route with GPS system and submit it when they are finished, flying during daylight hours under Visual Flight Rules. Teams that fly the closest to their route and meet the estimated times will claim the air derby's prizes.
Hickman said that her team will be flying for the derby on Friday.
Women's air racing started in 1929 with the Women's Air Derby. Twenty pilots, including the famed Amelia Earhart, raced from Santa Monica, California to Cleveland, Ohio.
The Cheetah Champs
Weyhe, a retired public library director, earned her pilot’s license in her 1978 Cheetah in 1986 in Alaska, where she lived for 20 years. She has flown twice in the historic Air Race Classic.
Orsini, a corporate finance professional, learned to fly in 2013 after retirement, fulfilling a lifelong passion.
Almquist, currently a commercial property developer and manager, learned to fly in 1992, and as a geologist, enjoys observing landforms from the air.
The New Heights Aviatrixes
Hickman, retired from public fire service, has been flying since 1996 when she learned to fly with a group of firefighters.
Frisbee-Pinkerton, a chiropractor, has been around aviation her whole life as her grandfather was a crop duster in Mississippi and her dad was an airline pilot. She achieved her own pilot's license in 2000.
Hickman and Fresbee-Pinkerton are sponsored by their businesses, New Heights Chiropractic and Wellness Clinic and Sage Fire Solutions, LLC.