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Thirty Planes Leave for First Airplane Race Around Globe

June 20, 1992

GENEVA (AP) _ A motley fleet of 30 flying machines left for Helsinki today and began the first air race around the world, taking advantage of the end of the Cold War to fly across the former Soviet Union.

As in the days of the Red Baron when pilots wore leather helmets and long white scarves, the pilots will go from point to point in a straight line. They’ll cross Siberia without having to stick to narrowly defined corridors.

Eleven crews from the United States are competing with teams from Canada, Europe, Central America and Hong Kong in a wide assortment of single- and twin-engine planes in the 22-day race.

For decades planes have set records in races against the clock around the world, but organizers say it is the first time that planes have raced each other at the same time all around the globe.

Each plane is judged according to the speed it is rated for by its manufacturer, which gives the smallest single-engine plane just as much chance to win as the largest twin-engine turbo prop.

″What this race really is is trying to be perfect, trying to pick the perfect route, trying to do the perfect altitude for winds and trying to perfectly plan international flying,″ said Faith Hillman of Los Angeles.

Hillman, who is taking time off from her job as a 747 pilot for Continental Airlines, teams with Sue Nealey of Chicago in one of two all-women crews in the race. They’re flying a twin-engine Cessna 310.

David Lee, 23, of Atlanta, said he thinks one of the smaller planes may win. Pilots are allowed to modify their planes and add extra range and speed.

Lee is chief pilot of a single-engine Piper Malibu with a crew that consists of three other pilots - his parents, Larry and Catherine, and 18- year-old brother, Darius, the youngest competitor.

It took nearly five hours in pouring rain to get all 30 aircraft into the air from Geneva airport, said Jacques Emler, spokesman for the Paris-based Arc En Ciel (rainbow) club that is organizing the race.

Stopovers are planned for Helsinki (today); Moscow, where the flyers are to be greeted by President Boris Yeltsin (June 21-23); Irkutsk (June 24-6); Yakutsk (June 27-8); Nome, Alaska (June 28-9); Victoria, B.C. (June 30-July 1); Fresno, Calif. (July 2-5); Frederick, Md., with a visit planned to Washington, D.C. (July 6-8); Godthab, Greenland (July 9-11).

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