Indiana State University Newsroom

ISU aviation team takes top collegiate honors in national air race

June 29, 2009

Indiana State University pilots Jessica Campbell and Victoria Dunbar returned to campus victorious after capturing top collegiate honors in the annual Air Race Classic, a transcontinental air race for women.

The pair of pilots competed against 34 teams, winning first place in the collegiate category and finishing second overall. The race across the mid-section of the U.S. covered 2,715 miles, starting June 23 at Centennial Airport near Denver and ending June 26 in Atlantic, Iowa. The ISU aviators flew in a Diamond DA40 plane.

They learned the results of the race at a banquet Sunday (June 28) in Iowa.

"Our goal going into this was to take home the collegiate trophy, so to win second place is just icing on the cake," Campbell said.

Campbell is a senior aviation major from Grandview, while Dunbar is a faculty member in Indiana State's department of technology.

"It was very exciting and we're very proud," Dunbar said.

Strategy was a major factor throughout the race. Each plane was assigned a handicap speed, with the goal to have the actual ground speed as far over the handicap speed as possible. That meant judging weather patterns, wind speeds and other elements in order to make the most of each day's flight.

"The biggest challenge was figuring out when to fly and when not to fly," Dunbar said.

Campbell said her time in the cockpit reinforced her lessons from the classroom, especially when it came to flying in varying altitudes.

"The altitude starting out in Denver was different from anything I was used to," she said. "That's something they teach you in class, but something I have a lot more respect for now that I've experienced it."

Women's air racing starting in 1929 with the first Women's Air Derby. Since then the race has served as a way to for women in the aviation industry to connect with one another and expand their skill sets.

"It's a great group of women and I learned a lot from all of them," Campbell said.

Tad Foster, dean of Indiana State's College of Technology, said the race helps further the mission of the aviation technology program.

"We know how to make professional aviators and I think that's been proven by this competition," Foster said.

Dunbar and Campbell said they are grateful for the opportunity to represent Indiana State in the aviation competition.

"We really want to thank ISU and College of Technology, along with Dixie Chopper Air, for sponsoring us," Dunbar said. "We also appreciate all the support we've received from our family and friends."

The pilots kept a blog of their journey, which can be accessed online at For more information on the Air Race Classic, go to

Indiana State's aviation technology program has been designated a Program of Regional Distinction as part of the university's Distinctive Programs Initiative. Funded in part by a gift from the Lilly Endowment, the initiative is intended to strengthen programs with national or regional reputations for quality, and build program that have the potential to achieve that status. For more information about the program of the College of Technology, visit


Media contact and writer: Emily Taylor, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or

Photo: Jessica Campbell (left) and Victoria Dunbar stand next to the Diamond DA40 airplane with their trophy after winning top honors in the collegiate division of the Air Race Classic. (ISU/Tony Campbell)