Kent State wins Air Race Classic for second consecutive year


Sara House

Pilots Laura Wilson (left) and Peyton Turner (right) pose with their trophies in front of their plane after returning from winning this year’s Air Race Classic.

Leah Shepard, Managing Editor

Kent State’s Flying Flashes returned Tuesday from the Air Race Classic after winning first place for the second year in a row. Pilots Laura Wilson and Peyton Turner completed the 2,685-mile, four-day race in first place overall as well as winning first place for fastest Cessna and fastest Women in Aviation International team. 

The race, which ran from June 20 to June 24, started in North Dakota and ended in Homestead, Florida. It included 42 competing teams and 18 collegiate teams representing 14 different universities. 

Kent State’s Flying Flashes touch down at the Kent State Airport after winning this year’s Air Race Classic. (Sara House)

Pilots Wilson and Turner said that the biggest obstacles they faced were weather conditions. Wilson, who raced for the second year in a row this year, said the weather made this year’s race much more difficult than last year. 

“Last year, the weather was pretty much fine the whole time, so you could be more strategic when you flew,” Wilson said. “This year, if we could get out, we got out. And all the teams were facing the same problems. We’re just glad all the teams finished because sometimes people don’t finish the race.”

Both Wilson and Turner expressed their surprise and gratefulness for the opportunity and win, as well as the community that Kent State’s aeronautics program provides.

“Talking to the other schools just made me realize that we really are that much different,” Turner said. “And the family atmosphere that we have here does hold true, that no one else is like this.”

“We weren’t expecting this outcome,” Wilson said. “This year was really hard to gauge where we were based on the other teams because they don’t tell us our score until the very end. But, we knew we ran a good race. We knew we made all the safe decisions and all the decisions that we could and until they announced us we were really unsure of the outcome.”

The Flying Flashes won by 3 minutes and ten seconds, according to Brian Neff, assistant dean of flight and operations within Kent State’s College of Aeronautics and Engineering. He said this may not seem like much, but when compared with the total race time of nineteen and a half hours, rounds out to being about nineteen seconds per leg between first and second place.

Laura Wilson and Peyton Turner at the Kent State Airport on June 27, 2023. (Sara House)

Neff said that he knew the challenges going into the event.

“It was something that we knew going into it: winning is tough. It’s a very competitive race and honestly there’s a little bit of luck involved,” he said. “So, the fact that we were able to run a safe race and still be competitive at the end means a lot to us.”

Aeronautics faculty member Carissa Neff said it was the hard work of Wilson and Turner that made the race a success. 

“This team worked incredibly well together,” she said. “And it shows, you know. They did such a great job. They worked so well, they worked so hard. They put in really long days to make this happen and never at any point did they have a bad attitude.”

Leah Shepard is managing editor. Contact her at [email protected]