Team Flying Tigresses
Air Race Classic Team #24

Anne Marie Radel & Margaret Viola

And the Winner Is…!

We are thrilled to announce University at Buffalo senior Jennifer Merckel as our winner of the Team Flying Tigresses Galactic Unite Scholarship!

We received a wonderful response to the call for applications and the choice of just one winner was difficult to say the least – all applicants were overwhelmingly qualified and would have put this award to productive use.  We wish all who applied the very best in their aviation and aerospace endeavors!

Congratulations to Jennifer and we look forward to welcoming you into the Galactic Unite Mentorship team!


Merckel Headshot

Announcing the Galactic Unite – Flying Tigresses Scholarship!

We are ecstatic about having reached our goals of flying for STEM and of being able to pay forward the generous support of our sponsors through our one-time scholarship.  Through the launch-pad of Galactic Unite – Virgin Galactic’s charitable side – applications to apply for the Flying Tigresses one-time scholarship are now open!  Spread the word!

The Galactic Unite Flying Tigresses Scholarship will award a one-time award of $2,200 to a collegiate or early-career woman establishing a career in aerospace, and who believes that aviation and being a pilot is key to her career and personal mission. This one-time award for year 2015-2016 may be given to either the university or flight school of the candidate’s choosing. The recipient will also have access to mentoring opportunities and other Galactic Unite educational programs in partnership with Virgin Galactic. If this sounds like you, then apply here before November, 30th 2015. The recipient will be announced on January 11th, 2016.



Well the results are in: A fastest leg award for taking first on the Indy to MI leg.
The real win: the experience, and being able to pay it forward.  We thank you so very much for supporting this journey!

Update from the race terminus!


Follow @mvio1a on Twitter to track our progress!

We will be on our way after a short night’s sleep, departing from KMHV – Mojave Air and Space Port!

Race-planning to Race-mode

Anne Marie and I are transitioning from race-planning to race-mode!  All registration, documentation, and logistics planning is complete!  So I find myself packing this weekend: fitting only exactly what I need into as small and light of a space as possible and shipping out a couple of care-packages to the race start and terminus for the niceties to get me through this 2-week adventure.

I still have our 9 race sectionals sprawled out across my living space – we “flew the race” over these sectionals via rulers and a pink highlighter, taking notes, determining minimum safe altitudes and other notable features.  Nothing replaces the benefits of this pencil-to-paper process for me in flight planning – it makes the visualization of the flight much more tangible for me.  Thinking about things like what features of terrain I’ll be passing when its time to switch frequencies, or the landmarks I’d be relying on if for some reason my navigation was reduced to dead-reckoning/pilotage (i.e., no magenta line on the Garmin 530 or Foreflight) – has made this upcoming race feel like just another set of normal cross-country flights instead of the more daunting sounding “legs of The Air Race.”


old-school flight planning with real sectionals is the best

My past few weeks have been filled with lots of flying adventures and regrettably little blogging as I strove to build PIC time.   But what terrific adventures…

A cloud does not know why it moves in just such a direction, and at just such a speed,  It feels an impulsion…this is the place to go now.  But the sky knows the reasons and the patterns behind all clouds, and you will know too, when you lift yourself high enough  to see beyond horizons.

– the Handbook, “Illusions,” Richard Bach




9/16 Snap-On Wrench









Scruffy, Dustin, Sooch, Pard, Enrico, Karina, Loretta, Scott:  Thanks to you especially for taking on this big flying endeavor with me, helping lower the barriers, sharing resources – time, airplanes, avgas, patience, moral support, humor, love.

And of course, Anne Marie:  OFF WE GO!


The world is a dream, you say, and it’s lovely sometimes. Sunset. Clouds. Sky

              No.  The image is a dream. The beauty is real. Can you see the difference?


Rules of the Race – The Handicap Run, The Bad Elf, and a Great A&P

I’ve gotten lots of questions so far on how a transcontinental air-race actually works:

“So if you’re not racing for speed on a closed course, how is this a ‘race’? ” for example.

Fair point!  The objective of this race is for each team to fly the fastest race possible for their make and model of airplane.  The Air Race Classic compares team’s performances by using a calibrating technique referred to as assigning each plane a “handicap.”  The ARC Handicap predicts, as accurately as possible, each airplane’s maximum true airspeed.   (True airspeed is the measure of how fast an airplane is moving relative to the air surrounding it.  “Ground Speed” is the rate the airplane is moving relative to the ground.”)


During the race, the team’s speed for each leg is calculated using the times that each team crosses a start and finish line for that race leg. The race leg speeds are compared to the team’s handicap speed. The team that beats their handicap by the largest number wins. In essence, each team is really racing against themselves and trying to beat their handicap by the best margin.

Handicaps are determined for each airplane in a “handicap run,” in which a racer flies her airplane with a designated race examiner and a GPS tracking device (known as the Bad Elf – yes really) on a closed course at a density altitude of 6,000 ft.

Anne Marie has already completed our handicap run for The Tiger, and with the help of her winsome A&P, Ed Kaston, has also completed the significant registEdKaston1ration work for The Tiger as well!

About Ed, Anne Marie says, “Ed’s forgotten more about Tigers than most pilots will ever know – so he is my trusted A&P!”  We are grateful for his support!


Google Hangout! Women in Aerospace

Had the change to Hangout on Air with accomplished and lovely colleague, Virgin Galactic’s Chief Astronaut Trainer Beth Moses, former Google Science Fair age-level winner Ann Makosinski, and students from Bohunt School live yesterday as Virgin Galactic and Google start our series of live Google Hangouts before this year’s Science Fair.  Listen in to hear more about our careers and perspectives on working in the commercial space industry!

Air Racing’s Next Big Thing?

The first transcontinental race for women pilots began in 1929 with a field of 20 aviatrixes, each with a reported and required minimum of 100 hours of logged pilot time.    There’s plenty more to read on the trials of that first race – for one colorful description by a “Mercury 13″ candidate and air racer, visit:

It’s almost trite to comment that so much about aviation has changed since that first race –  though as we look back through the now “Air Race Classic’s” recent history, it may not appear that general aviation is evolving as quickly.  Still – I like to consider this year’s air race as an opportunity to imagine what’s coming next for air racing.  And a reminder of that came yesterday with the news that Solar Impulse had landed in Nanjing, completing leg 6 of its journey to circumnavigate the globe on solar power alone:

Solar Impulse

What aircraft will air racers fly in several generations from today’s race?    What can we do now to inspire that?


Why Galactic Unite?

You might be wondering why Anne Marie and I have chosen to connect our “Flight of the Tigresses” in the 2015 Air Race Classic with Galactic Unite’s mission.  Here’s my explanation!

As someone equally passionate about aviation and space exploration, I see the two as intricately connected – one follows naturally from the other.  Moreover I see aviation as real-time, accessible-right-now practice for the skills, capabilities, and “Pilot in Command” accountability we’ll need to advance space exploration.  With respect to the Air Race Classic specifically, I see this as following along the lines of all challenges in aviation which have led us as a society to open doors to the next-level of technological development:  Think about the Orteig Prize which inspired Lindbergh’s successful flight across the Atlantic, and much later the Ansari X-Prize which led to SpaceShipOne accomplishing private-enterprise space flight, which has ultimately led to Virgin Galactic!   And so it is that I would like to pose our flight in the Air Race Classic this year as a platform for all to be asking those “What’s next?” questions:  What’s next for the future of air racing – will it be on solar-wings?  Electric-powered flight?  Or even point-to-point via high atmospheric travel?  What will the next generation of air racers be like?  What would we like them to be learning now, in preparation?  How do we want to shape the culture of aviation as we progress through the next races, years, stages?

Galactic Unite offers scholarships – with the option for industry-mentorship – to students as they pursue studies and training which will equip them with the tools to take on the challenges that will ultimately answer those “what’s next?!” questions.  Offering scholarships to support students in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) educational paths both in the US and around the world, Galactic Unite’s scholarship focus centers on building the pathway for today’s students to become industry leaders in aerospace and technology.

While some events are geared toward younger audiences, my favorite aspects are the myriad scholarships we’re offering to collegiate students – as with these scholarships comes the offer of mentorship with someone in our enterprise.  I mentor one student under this program who has played a major role in the San Diego State University rocket launch lab program, and who has been part of the launch of several respectable rockets to date!   I’m also mentoring a student who reached out to me from my alumni network through The University of Chicago.

The reason these mentorships are so meaningful to me is that I know they fill a void that I experienced while I was working hard to earn my undergraduate degree in Physics and simultaneously trying to find a place within the new commercial industry where my skills and abilities could contribute.  I realize now that the job I currently hold did not even exist at that time – yet I KNEW I wanted to get into this budding industry and took all the steps I could think of to lay a foundation for my career.  It was like a mystery obstacle course to find my way to a network and connections within commercial space from those college days.  Now Galactic Unite is creating a clearer road map for emerging talent to find its way by supporting students through this scholarship and mentorship program.

Another positive aspect to scholarship-vectored mentorship is that by creating relationships with future STEM-career movers and shakers we have the chance to shape the culture of this new industry. Through positive outreach we are saying “Come join us, think with us, let’s all create the world we’d like to see tomorrow.”  Programs like Galactic Unite are creating a culture of inclusiveness, camaraderie, mentorship, and fellowship for all aerospace-focused professionals, artists, business leaders, and aviators too.

Finally, whereas I realize that in some ways airplanes may not be as exciting to today’s youth as they once were,  spaceships, jet engines, and emerging aerospace technologies still retain that attention-grabbing edge.   So continuing to connect the possibilities of emerging technologies with aviation – especially as Virgin Galactic succeeds in its mission to show that space access is safe, repeatable, and available widely – is a win-win for these pursuits in parallel.   That’s why I’m keen to show the flight of Air Race Classic Team #24 – Team Flying Tigresses –  as demonstrating the link between general aviation and aerospace exploration.  And I think Galactic Unite is the most direct way for us to do just that.  Who’s with me?!


Help us achieve this goal with a donation at:

« Older posts