By Mary Alice Murphy
Caroline Baldwin and her daughter, Lydia Baldwin, are the twosome of the Baldwin Family Flyers for the 2017 Air Race Classic, an all-women small plane air race across part of the U.S.
This year, in a break with the usual race from west to east, they chose to go from east, starting in Frederick, MD to Coshocton, OH to Indianapolis, IN to Decorah, IA, to Bemidji, MN, southward to Spencer, IA, to Abilene, KS, to Plainview, TX to Edgewood, NM and ending in Santa Fe, NM.
The pilots may fly only by visual flight rules, meaning no radar allowed and during daylight hours only. Sometimes, the pilots land for fueling or to spend the night, and sometimes, they are required only to fly by and be recorded by the stations. They turn their time devices in upon arrival at the terminus.
The race began June 20 and all planes eligible for prizes must have landed before nightfall June 23. The Baldwins' plane landed a little before 3 p.m., in plenty of time.
This year is the 13th time that Caroline Baldwin has flown in the race. Last year and the year before, the Baldwin Family Flyers included granddaughter Cara Baldwin, daughter of one of Caroline and Bill Baldwin's sons. She is a student at the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University- Daytona, Florida, and she and her co-pilot Mia Hallgring flew this year representing the university.
"When they give out the rankings and prizes at the Sunday evening banquet, they start with the Best Family Team," Caroline told the Beat. "We got that one. We didn't get any leg prizes, for which the top 10 planes are not eligible. When we didn't get a leg prize, we hoped we would be in the top 10. Then there were only two Piper Cherokees and they handed the prize to the other one. So we were confused."
It turned out that the Baldwin Family Flyers should have also received the Piper prize, which had to be taken from the other pilots and given to the Baldwins.
The countdown from 10 began, and the Baldwin Family Flyers took fourth. Last year, they got seventh, so they are happy with the trend.
"We're not aviation professionals like a lot of the other teams are," Caroline said.
Caroline's granddaughter and her co-pilot, flying as Riddle Racer Blue team, came in 19th, better than more than half the other teams.
Fifty-two planes registered for the race, 49 started the race and 44 finished. Three were not competing, one was disqualified and another had engine problems.
Caroline had rented a house in Santa Fe for a family reunion for the weekend. Their children and grandchildren made a grand party, and coming in fourth only added to the festivities.
She said her granddaughter Cara will graduate from Embry-Riddle in December, and plans to become a professional pilot.
Caroline said flying from east to west brought headwinds for all the teams. "We had a lot of weather challenges and because we could not fly through storms, we had to fly around them."
She was the one who told me about damage to the T-hangars at the Grant County Airport, which can be read at http://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/37677-damage-at-grant-county-airport-on-saturday-evening-062417.
One of the hangars damaged is the one where the Baldwin Piper Cherokee generally lives. However, because of the race and still being in Santa Fe, the airplane was not "home," and sustained no damage. Daughter Lydia will have the plane for the summer.