The Mesquite Municipal Airport served as a leg of a 600 nautical mile air race on Mar. 18 and 19 when the “99’s” women’s pilot association landed. The Havasu 600 Air Race started in Borrego Valley, California with the first leg ending in Mesquite. The second and final leg ended in Lake Havasu, Arizona.
Each of the 13 participating teams was assigned a handicap based on the power and overall speed of the plane, much like a golf handicap. Each plane was timed and graded on how direct their route was.
The 99’s women pilot’s organization was founded in 1929 when Amelia Earhart, who was one of America’s most famous pilots, asked all the licensed women pilots in the country to meet with her “for the fun of it,” at an airport on Long Island, New York. A total of 99 women showed up and thus the name of the organization was born.
According to Susan Peck, who was one of the organizers of the race, “The 99’s are now international with chapters all over the world.” The international headquarters for the group is in Oklahoma City, which also is the location of a women’s aviation museum. The chapter organizing the race through Mesquite was the Rio Colorado Chapter in Arizona.
To be timed, the pilots flew over the airport at an altitude of 500 feet. The pilots were also judged for how level they kept their plane and for their approach and landing. Each plane was required to announce to the timers on the ground when they were approaching the airport.
Greeting the planes as they landed were volunteer members of Mesquite Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) who helped set up the facilities and members of the Mesquite Fire Fighters Association who cooked food for the pilots. The pilots stayed overnight and were driven in classic cars to and from the airport by members of the Over the Hill Gang car club, organized by Tom and Jayne Fulton of Mesquite.
The winners of the race were pilot Shannon Stebbens and co-pilot Diana Stebbins of Arizona.