Flashes soar to annual Air Race Classic

Helen Miller (left) Jalia Manga (right), senior flight technology majors, pose for a portrait on Thursday, June 15, 2017, before traveling to Maryland the next day.

Ray Padilla

Two Kent State pilots will fly in the four-day, all-women Air Race Classic from Tuesday, June 20 to Thursday, June 23.

Jalia Manga and Helen Miller, senior flight technology majors, will participate in the air race alongside 118 other pilots.

“Kent has provided me with two opportunities to do this and I think that going and representing them in something this big of scale is really cool,” Manga said. “Hopefully I am going to do (it) proud.”

The race begins in Frederick, Maryland, and the women may only fly during daylight hours.

The route changes each year, but remains approximately 2,400 statute miles in length, as noted on the Air Race Classic’s website.

Last year, the race began in Prescott, Arizona, and finished in Daytona Beach, Florida — passing over 12 states.

The Air Race Classic began as the Women’s Air Derby in 1929, during which aviator Amelia Earhart helped form the competition.

This year the women will be flying through eight locations and ending their race in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The pilots’ ages range between 17 and 90 years old, and each pilot comes from a different background.

Manga and Miller look forward the experience from the event. They will pilot a Cessna Sky Hawk called Nikki the Top Hawk, named after Nicole Kukwa, a late Kent State aviation student who passed away from leukemia in 2006.

Manga participated in the race last year, flying the same plane with alumna Carissa Marion. This year, Manga hopes to experience new terrain and become a better pilot.

The first time Manga entered the race, it was a positive experience and she met a lot of  interesting women pilots, she said.

“This career is a lot of men,” Manga said. “So going to a place that is all females and — you know, it shows that there are really great pilots and I look forward to (reuniting) with some of the ones I met last year as well as hopefully meeting some new ones this year.”

Miller wants to network with the other woman pilots during her first Air Race Classic.

“Being able to actually meet a lot of the other woman pilots that are out there and a lot of them — I mean to do this race, you have to be at least somewhat successful,” she said. “I think that’s what I’m looking forward to most is just meeting them and talking to them. Everyone’s got their story.”

Manga and Miller will depart from the Kent State University Airport Friday and will arrive in Maryland.

This will be the second year Kent State will participate in the ARC. People looking to follow the two students’ progress throughout the race can follow #NikkiTheTopHawk on social media.

Ray Padilla is the academics reporter, contact him at [email protected].