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SIU flight instructors and students set to compete in 2021 Air Race Classic

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SIU aviation

MURPHYSBORO (WSIL)--This week is the 2021 Air Race Classic and SIU's Aviation Department is sending three teams to compete in the nation's only all-female air race.

"What we have to do is we have to plan and fly the perfect cross country. So morning of, we're gonna wake up, and fingers crossed the weather's good, and then we'll plan how long it's gonna take us to fly five different legs across country, and we're gonna try and fly it down to the second that we plan for," said Gabrielle Escudero, a flight instructor at SIU.

Escudero is co-piloting her team, the Saluki Aces, with Aviation Management Senior Sophie Ottoson.

"So during this competition, I'm gonna be the pilot in the plane. So I'll be the one actually at the controls flying. And Gabby is there to make sure I am hitting my points at the right time, and flying the right course and everything like that," said Ottoson.

The women's only contest is rare feat, as women only make up 8% of total pilots in the country.

"It's just exciting to be flying with other female pilots and learn from them and work towards something together," said Esudero.

And the competition means something more to the young pilots than just flying in a contest.

"Flying in an all female competition is kinda enlightening and exciting for me. We are definitely not the majority in the aviation field. So being able to see all these females come together, even here, having 6 of us being able to go, is really exciting," said Ottoson.

And the pilots hope the contest can encourage other girls to let their own aviation dreams take off.

"I know that growing up, I knew aviation was an option for me, both my parents are in aviation. But for girls who might see this on tv, or read the articles, seeing all of these females at school, being able to compete, will be really inspiring, I'm hoping," said Ottoson.

This fall, 15% of SIU's aviation program students will be women, almost double the national average.

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Madeline Parker

Madeline Parker is a Multimedia Journalist at News 3 WSIL. Madeline joined the team in 2020 and graduated from Southern Illinois University Carbondale with a Bachelor’s in Electronic Journalism and a minor in Communication Studies.

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