Amy Warbalow and Katrina Kugler make picture-perfect departure for four day transcontinental race

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Amy Warbalow and Katrina Kugler make picture-perfect departure for four day transcontinental race

University of North Dakota aviation student Amy Warbalow and her teammate Katrina Kugler, a UND flight instructor, departed the University's Flight Operations at 8:30 a.m. today, flying UND Cessna 172 N561ND. The women were set to fly 561 to their first stop ? Casper, Wyo. ? on their way to Pasco, Wash., the starting point for the international aviation competition. Today's flight was expected to take about four and half hours. They're planning to arrive in Pasco by midday Friday to give them a few days to rest and prepare before the intense four-day race.

Warbalow's sister Michelle, a UND Communications major who graduates in August, was on hand to bid farewell to the team and take lots of pictures. Kugler's husband Andrew Kugler, also a UND flight instructor, and UND Assistant Director of Aviation Safety Frank Argenziano were part of the unofficial farewell escort on the apron as the women did their detailed pre-flight check after their aircraft was fueled.

Warbalow and Kugler are the first UND team to compete in the historic Air Race Classic, a globally renowned women-only event pioneered by, among others, legendary aviator Amelia Earhart. The Department of Aviation is part of the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences (UND Aerospace).

The 2,400 mile race starts June 18 in the morning and ends June 21 at Fayetteville, Ark. The race is flown only during daylight hours.

Kugler, a pilot and aviation educator, is from Yuma, Ariz.; Warbalow, who also is majoring in aviation education and just earned her instructor certificate, is from Minocqua, Wisc. The have been tracking their preparations for the race on their blog.

The team carried an unusual passenger aboard who'll accompany the two women for the duration of race: a fuzzy golden-fleeced stuffed animal ? a dog ? given to Amy by her students at the North Dakota Vision Services School for the Blind, where she works part-time.

"They wanted us to have the dog along as they track our progress on our blog and on our Facebook page," Warbalow said. "We're happy for the company!"

To prepare for the race, Kugler and Warbalow met regularly over the last year with UND Director of Aviation Safety Dana Siewert and with aviation weather expert Fred Remer, also a faculty member in UND Aerospace. They met with UND Director of Extension Programs and aircraft fleet manager Don Dubuque to discuss the special requirements for mountain flying.

About the Air Race Classic

Women's air racing all started in 1929 with the First Women's Air Derby; 20 pilots, including farmed aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart, raced from Santa Monica, Calif., to Cleveland, Ohio, site of the National Air Races, according to the detailed Air Race Classic history of the race posted on its website.

The early air races were the "on to" type, with noon and night control stops, and the contestants more or less stayed together. In that manner, weather and flying conditions were practically the same for each entrant and the race officials could release standings to the media after each day of racing.

The current race routes are about 2,400 statute miles in length. Contestants are usually given four days, flying by visual flight rules to reach the finish. The race is run only during daylight hours.

Juan Miguel Pedraza

University and Public Affairs writer

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