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Purdue team to fly in women’s cross-country Air Race Classic

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Two students in Purdue University’s Department of Aviation Technology will compete June 24-27 in the 32nd annual all-female Air Race Classic.

Marie Janus, a senior from Valparaiso, Ind., is the captain of the Purdue Air Race Team, and Juliana Lindner, a sophomore from Hanover Park, Ill., is the co-pilot. Purdue’s team will be one of 36 competing in the race.

This year’s race will begin in Bozeman, Mont., and continue to Miles City, Mont.; Aberdeen, S.D.; Mason City, Iowa; Decatur, Ill.; Frankfort, Ky.; Franklin, Pa.; Saratoga Springs, N.Y.; and Mansfield, Mass. The total distance covered will be about 2,009 nautical miles (2,312 statute miles).

The winners will be announced at a banquet June 29 in Mansfield.

Janus, who was co-pilot last year with captain Katie Sparrow, has been involved with the Air Race Classic all four years while at Purdue, first as a ground crew member, then as a pilot.

“It’s been one of my passions throughout college,” she said. “There are all sorts of women who compete from all age groups and walks of life, so it’s great to see such a mix of women come together every year.”

Janus and Lindner, who was on the ground crew last year, will pilot a Piper Warrior. Janus said the two will fly over some of the stops on the race route on the way out to the starting point of Montana in June but that there is no real way to practice for the contest.

“Honestly, it’s just luck,” she said. “We have a light plane, which is helped by a tailwind, so if the tailwind is there, we’ll do well, but if we have a headwind, we won’t. There is not too much we can do about that.”

Last year’s team placed first among college teams and fourth overall.

Each Air Race Classic team flies a stock aircraft with no modifications. The teams are then assigned a handicap based on their airplane’s predetermined average cruise speed.

Teams in the Air Race Classic win based on the efficiency and accuracy they exhibit in every aspect of the race. A team is rated based on its performance compared to its airplane’s handicap.

Because of the nature of the scoring, it is impossible to gauge a team’s performance in relation to other teams until the competition is over. It is even possible that the team that completes the course last could actually win based on the expected performance of its plane.

Purdue teams have competed in the Air Race Classic for the past 14 years, finishing first overall in 1996, the first collegiate team ever to do so.

Members of the Purdue Air Race Team ground crew this year are Lauren Steele, a freshman in aviation technology from Lapel, Ind.; Kaitlin Mroz, a sophomore from Avon, Ind. Erin Cournoyer, a freshman in aviation technology from Webster, N.Y.; James Bearman, a senior in astronautical and aeronautical engineering from Milford, Ohio; Crystal Mathews, a senior in aviation technology from Indianapolis; Brent Sloan, a freshman in aviation technology from Fort Wayne, Ind.; Brian Futterman, a sophomore in aviation technology from Rego Park, N.Y.; Chris Leighton, a freshman in aviation technology from Ridgefield, Conn.; Halley Oleck, a senior in aviation technology from Moon Township, Pa.; Pascal Nguyen, a senior in aviation technology from Elkhart, Ind. and Prashant Tatineni, a graduate student form Newburgh, Ind.

The Air Race Classic is the longest-running all-female airplane race in the world. Its roots date back more than 70 years when the Women’s Air Derby brought pilots such as Amelia Earhart, Bobbi Trout and Ruth Elder to an air race from Santa Monica, Calif., to Cleveland.

Additional information about the Purdue Air Race Team can be found online at

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