Okie Derby air race 'all about Bob'

The Oklahoma Chapter of the Ninety-Nines, an international organization of female pilots, hosted its32nd annual Okie Derby Proficiency Air Race on Saturday at Wiley Post Airport. The event challenges pilots to fly a designated course while trying to match time and fuel estimates.
BY DARLA SLIPKE Published: August 22, 2010

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."