Phyllis Howard flew without her husband during Saturday's Okie Derby for the first time since she founded the proficiency air race 32 years ago.
Bob Howard died this year of complications from breast cancer.
Judges, organizers and some participants wore bright pink shirts that read "It's all about Bob" in his honor. Phyllis Howard wore one, too, as she took flight.
"He would say: 'Go for it, Phyl," said Howard, who lives in Oklahoma City. "He would be unhappy with me if I weren't here."
Pilots and co-pilots of 24 aircraft participated in the Okie Derby Proficiency Air Race at Wiley Post Airport. The event was hosted by the Oklahoma Chapter of Ninety-Nines, an international organization of female pilots. Men and women from five states competed.
The winners weren't the pilots with the fastest planes. Rather, they were the pilots who came closest to predictions they made beforehand of their time and fuel consumption. Some pilots get both estimates exact.
They flew a 220-mile course from Wiley Post Airport to Guthrie, Prague, Purcell, Anadarko and back.
The Okie Derby supports aviation scholarships for women. Pilots compete for trophies and bragging rights, but mostly for fun.
Terry Carbonell, of Alva, Fla., flew more than seven hours to compete. She said her friends keep her coming back.
"This is what general aviation is about," Carbonell said. "Fellowship, friends, a gorgeous day. Life doesn't get any better than this."
Competition can be fierce, especially during the refueling process when pilots discover how close they are to their
Judges covered the fuel gage with a pink towel Saturday until after the aircraft was finished refueling.
The pilots who refueled before Carbonell's were just one-tenth of a point off their mark. The pressure was on. Carbonell thought she might have to bribe the judges with a bag of Skittles.
"Three bags," one of the judges joked. "Four bags," he added as the fuel continued to pump.
When the judges finally removed the towel, Carbonell had hit her mark exactly. She let out a yell, pumped her fist in the air and promised the judges Skittles cookies next year. Carbonell always brings cookies.
A crowd of supporters — many dressed in pink — gathered around Howard's plane when she returned. Sometimes Howard and her husband had to exit the plane from separate sides because tensions were so high, but they loved flying together, Howard said.
She took comfort in knowing her husband would want her to fly in the event she founded. "It's my baby, so I'll keep coming back."