Speer taking flight in Air Race Classic

Speer taking flight in Air Race Classic
By KEVIN BOWDEN
Staff Reporter
Local pilot Jo Ann Speer will be heading off into the wild blue yonder next month for a flight that will take her through nine states as part of the 2013 Air Race Classic.
Mrs. Speer, airport manager at Everett-Stewart Regional Airport, will join teammate Kristy Gentry-Cox as they compete in the cross-country air race.
They and 46 other teams will travel 2,128 nautical miles from Pasco, Wash., to Fayetteville, Ark.
More than 100 female pilots will be competing for the championship title in this year’s air race.
The Air Race Classic dates back to 1929 and is only open to women pilots. The annual race will require the two-women teams to make eight stops in four days as they compete for the fastest time in the race.
Air racing became popular in the 1920s, but female pilots were forbidden to race against male pilots in that era, according to a news release. Restricted from co-ed air racing, a group of female pilots started their own race.
Mrs. Speer is an instrument-rated commercial pilot, a flight instructor and has logged 862 hours of flying time. She began flying at age 40 when she was the owner and operator of the fixed base operator at Everett-Stewart Regional Airport. She later became manager at the local airport and has been actively involved in aviation at the local and state levels.
“What an awesome experience for a country girl from northwest Tennessee,” she said. “Who would have ever thought that I would someday be flying an airplane, let alone enter an all-women’s cross-country air race.”
She and her teammate will take off from Tri-Cities Airport in Pasco, Wash., on June 18 and will finish the race at Drake Field Airport in Fayetteville, Ark., on June 21.
They will be flying Mrs. Speer’s personal airplane, a Cessna 172.
“I met Kristy several years ago at an airport conference and I immediately liked her. She is an airport manager like me,” Mrs. Speer said about her teammate.
They have come up with a name for their team, East Meets West Tennessee, and they have already set up a website for their journey — www.teameastmeetswesttn.blogspot.com.
As far as preparing for the race, Mrs. Speer said she and her racing partner have been studying the route and studying each of the airports they will be stopping at along the route.
“Since I first heard of the ARC, it has been a dream of mine to one day enter,” Mrs. Speer said. “I feel that preparing for and entering the race will be an experience of a lifetime. I really want to encourage more women to experience the wonder of flight.”
Mrs. Speer is a member of the Memphis Chapter of the Ninety-Nines and is a member of Women in Aviation. When she is not flying, Mrs. Speer and her husband, Kerry, who is not a pilot, enjoy such outdoor activities as camping and four-wheeling. They also enjoy spending time with their grandchildren.
The Air Race Classic also has a website — www.airraceclassic.org — that includes information about the race, pilot teams and will include updates on the race status once the event is underway.
Staff Reporter Kevin Bowden may be contacted by email at kmbowden@ucmessenger.com.
Published in The Messenger 5.13.13

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