Two Auburn women competing in 2017 Air Race Classic

Published: June 12, 2017
Updated: June 22, 2017
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Two Auburn women will become the university's first team to compete in the Air Race Classic, an annual cross-country airplane race for female pilots. Ashley Tucker, a certified flight instructor and 2016 Auburn graduate, and Kendall Higdon, a senior in Professional Flight Management, will fly from Frederick, Maryland, to Santa Fe, New Mexico, as they compete with 53 other teams.

Tucker and Higdon will be flying the brand new Cessna Skyhawk 172 on lease from Textron Aviation for the Top Hawk collegiate program. The 2,648-mile race will take Tucker and Higdon through 14 states, where they will make eight stops—Coshocton, Ohio; Indianapolis, Indiana; Decorah, Iowa; Bemidji, Minnesota; Spencer, Iowa; Abilene, Kansas; Ardmore, Oklahoma; and Plainview, Texas—before making their final landing at the Santa Fe Municipal Airport. The team will depart from Frederick Municipal Airport June 20 and, flying only in daylight hours, has until 5 p.m. on June 23 to complete the trip.

In addition to Tucker and Higdon making up Auburn's first-ever team to compete in the Air Race Classic, this will also be the first race competition for each of the pilots.

"We're honored to be the first Auburn women competing," said Higdon. "Auburn's aviation program has really grown, especially in terms of women joining it, and I'm excited to represent the program in a national competition."

Auburn University is celebrating 125 years of women at Auburn this year, making 2017 an ideal year for Auburn to send its first team to the all-female race.

Both Tucker and Higdon grew up in aviation households and were interested in flying at a young age.

"My mom was a Delta flight attendant, and she home-schooled my sister and me," said Higdon. "In middle school we traveled all over Europe, and it made me fall in love with traveling. When I started flying I loved it, and it was easy for me to catch the travel bug."

Tucker caught the travel bug at a young age, too.

"My dad flies for Southwest Airlines, so like Kendall, I grew up loving aviation and loving to travel," said Tucker. "I originally wanted to do film and majored in media studies, but once I began flying, I really enjoyed it."

Tucker and Higdon plan on continuing their career in aviation. Higdon hopes to follow in Tucker's footsteps and become an Auburn University flight instructor after she graduates in May 2018, and both say they would like to fly for an airline one day. For now though, the women are focusing only on the competition.

"It's going to be a long couple of days, but it will definitely be well-worth it," said Tucker. "It's going to be a great experience."

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 29,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn's commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact. Auburn's mission to educate, discover and collaborate drives its expanding impact on the world.