Birds of Paragon, a three-person female flight team from Paragon Flight Training, will take to the skies to compete in the 45th annual Air Race Classic (ARC) June 21–24. ARC is an all-female cross-country air race that tests pilots’ skills over four days through changing terrain, weather, winds and airspace. Birds of Paragon will vie for the top spot against almost 50 teams as they traverse a total 2,549 miles from Lakeland, Florida, to Terra Haute, Indiana.
Making the journey as part of the Birds of Paragon rookie team are Florida-based certified flight instructors from Paragon Flight Training—Katie Truedson (pilot) of Babcock Ranch, and Connie Hite (flight instruments navigator) of Cape Coral—as well as 19-year-old co-pilot and avionics lead Cassie Thompson-Pride of Fort Myers, who is a member of Paragon Flight’s student ambassador team.
“Birds of Paragon is excited to continue the legacy of female air racing through ARC,” Paragon Certified Flight Instructor Connie Hite said. “This is truly a team effort, and we are especially grateful to Paragon Flight for both their financial and moral support of this team—and in their promotion of women in aviation and aerospace.”
Paragon Flight Training is sponsoring the team, supplying them with one of its brand-new Piper P100 (registration N305UM) aircraft for the race, overnight lodging expenses, uniforms and other flight race essentials.
The Air Race Classic follows a different route every year. This year’s defined course will present a variety of challenges and learning opportunities for flight teams—yet be within the endurance range of the slowest airplane. There are multiple predefined airports that the team must fly to, but landing at each airport is optional depending on what the team decides. Each team must be on the ground prior to sunset at a designated race stop, and those teams determine how many days they want to take to finish the course – factoring in strategy, weather, and airplane endurance.
During the race, individuals will be able to follow the progress of their favorite racers from the ARC website. Cash prizes are awarded to the top 10 – with the highest-scoring team receiving a total $6,000 cash, plus medallions and awards for each team member.