Sixty-four female pilots arrived in Mansfield June 27, culminating a 2,400-mile trek which started in Boseman, Montana.

Sixty-four female pilots arrived in Mansfield June 27, culminating a 2,400-mile trek which started in Boseman, Montana.

The race — known as the Air Race Classic — is the only transcontinental air race piloted solely by women.

Of the 36 two-person teams who had initially registered, 30 finished the four-day race. From Boseman, the flight path went through Miles City, Montana, then headed south to Aberdeen, South Carolina, Mason City, Iowa, Decatur, Illinois, and Frankfort, Kentucky, then headed north to Franklin, Pennsylvania, and Saratoga Springs, New York, before finishing in Mansfield.

The event marked only the second time in more than 30 years that the race has finished in Massachusetts. It finished in Hyannis in the year 2000.

Local pilot Kathy McDonald, who lives in Easton and owns Mansfield Oil, served as president of the race committee and has been working tirelessly for more than a year to make the event the success that it was.

“I am just so proud to have been able to be a part of this and to share it with this area. My committee and the volunteers who helped out have made this a successful event,” McDonald said. “I have so much respect for all the people of Mansfield who have participated in making it a success. Our volunteers have given 100 percent to make this a success and pleasure for the Ladies of the Sky. I am so blessed and wish to thank them all.”

McDonald, who has been a pilot for 14 years, said that it was “just as much fun” to watch her fellow female pilots fly as it is to actually fly herself.

“There is a real thrill when you see them fly it, too. Perspective is everything in life,” she said.

The ladies of the sky were welcomed in Mansfield by a big party. Last Saturday and Sunday, a total of 62 vendors set up on the grounds of the Mansfield Municipal Airport, according to Lou Andrews, a member of the Airport Commission. Andrews donated countless hours to making the weekend festival a reality.

Several local non-profit organizations, lots of crafters, and plenty of food vendors participated. Assorted musical bands, antique cars, and modern and vintage aircraft joined in to create a festive, welcoming atmosphere.

On Friday night, local residents treated the pilots to dinner. Saturday night, there was a dinner and dance at the airport.

“I do not know how to explain the feeling, but it was so exciting to watch everyone enjoy our historical event. I guess the best description is — it has been one of the best experiences in my life ... besides flying, of course,” McDonald said.

Capping off the event on Sunday night was a banquet at the Holiday Inn, where several winners were announced. Winner information is available on-line at http://www.airraceclassic.org/content/race-results-are-in

Most of the pilots left the area on Monday morning.

“It saddens me to see my flying buddies leave our town, but at the same time it was such a pleasure to bring them here. The ladies are all impressed with our area and the people,” McDonald said.

Mansfield News