Davis College aviation students compete in National Women’s Air Race Classic

July 09, 2024

School of Aviation students Harper Meehan and Grace Whitney are in the minority when it comes to pilots. Only 5 percent of pilots at U.S. airlines are women. 

However, they recently found themselves surrounded by over 100 female pilots when they competed this summer in the national Air Race Classic competition, an annual all-women’s race across the country, where pilots range in age from 17 to 90.

Race teams, coming from a wide variety of backgrounds, including students, teachers, doctors and business professionals, consist of at least two women pilots. The pilots had to fly VFR—operating an aircraft in weather conditions clear enough to allow the pilot to see where the aircraft is going—during daylight hours only and were given four days to make flybys at various timing points, ultimately landing at the final destination.

The Davis College of Business and Technology duo traveled from Carbondale, Illinois, to Loveland, Colorado, and went to nine different states, traveling over 2,600 miles. Meehan and Whitney competed against 45 other teams and landed in the Top 20 out of 26 other collegiate teams.

They both learned crucial lessons throughout the race, including thinking independently. “The most important lesson was the significance of making safe decisions and not following the crowd,” said Whitney, a senior majoring in Aviation Management and Flight Operations.

Lessons learned on land in the classroom at Jacksonville University aided the female pilots while soaring high in the skies. 

Students in plane“We were not just flying, we were looking at the weather, planning according to the winds and making sure we had enough fuel to get to our next destination,” explained Meehan, a junior also majoring in Aviation Management and Flight Operations. “We would not have been able to do that effectively if it weren’t for the classes at JU teaching us how to do this. We also learned about hazardous attitudes in class and how to overcome them in order to make safe decisions.”

The aviation sector needs more female pilots and Meehan and Whitney are doing their part to help turn the tide in this shortage. They both feel they learned skills from the competition that will aid them later when they enter the job market.

“The skills from the competition taught me a lot about crew resource management, which is huge in aviation. This will help in my future career in how to manage stressful situations with others,” Whitney noted. 

“This competition was an unforgettable experience,” said Meehan. “You learn so much about flying and get to see so many cool places, and the best part is you get to meet so many incredible women!”

All Stories

See All News