The Birds of Paragon, a three-person female flight team from Paragon Flight Training, will take to the skies to compete in the 46th annual Air Race Classic (ARC) 20-23 June. The ARC is an all-female cross-country air race that tests pilots’ skills over four days through changing terrain, weather, winds and airspace. The Birds of Paragon, supported by new title sponsor Piedmont and Paragon Flight Training, will vie for the top spot against 44 teams as they traverse approximately 2,300 nautical miles from Grand Forks, North Dakota, to Homestead, Florida, with eight stops in between.
Taking flight for the Birds of Paragon are Paragon Flight Certified Fight Instructor (CFI) Lauren Ramage (pilot/captain) and Paragon Flight students Jennifer Adams (co-pilot) and Gina Willaford (team member). All three are Fort Myers residents.
“Our fellow pilots from Paragon Flight set the stage last year in forming the Birds of Paragon, and my team and I are excited to continue the legacy of female air racing through ARC – and now, Paragon Flight,” Ramage said. “This is a team effort, made possible by the generosity of Paragon Flight and Piedmont Airlines – and we are grateful for their support of female aviators.”
This is the second year that Paragon Flight is sponsoring a team in the ARC. Last year’s first ever Birds of Paragon team, comprised of Connie Hite, Katie Truedson and Cassie Thompson-Pride, took second place overall - with no penalties - and the distinction of being the fastest Piper aircraft in the 2022 Air Race Classic.
Sponsorships by Paragon Flight Training and Piedmont Air cover expenses including use of Paragon Flight’s new Piper P100i aircraft (registration N120MG) for the race, fuel, overnight lodging expenses, uniforms and other flight race essentials. Additional sponsors include Florida International Airshow, Flight Ninja, Lycoming, Flight Club 502, CapAir, Page Field Base Operations, STS Properties, Anytime Fitness, 5 Day Plantation Shutters, Power Stroke Performance, My Shower Door, Gulf Coast Smiles, Viruet Periodontics, Restore Medical Partners, PRMG Dream Home Lending Team, Sweet Dreams Anesthesia, First Service, Fort Rock and Goody.
Tyler Tenbrink, Director of Talent Acquisition for Piedmont Airlines, explained the company’s support for the Birds of Paragon +team: “Piedmont Airlines is proud to be a champion for female aviators through our title sponsorship for this year’s all-female Birds of Paragon team,” Tenbrink said. “As a regional airline growing our pilot talent pipeline, we are committed to promoting diversity and inclusivity in the aviation industry and we are excited to support these talented women as they break barriers and demonstrate their skill and determination in this cross-country competition.”
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. Each team must be on the ground prior to sunset at a designated race stop. Teams also 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.