• Air Racer from Wisconsin Rapids

    Posted on November 24th, 2012 John Dorcey No comments

    One of the missions of the Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame (WAHF) is to share the stories of Wisconsin’s aviators. Ideas for these stories come from attendees of WAHF presentations, continuing research by WAHF members, archival donations, and sometimes reading a book. This is a case of the latter. I was paging through Forward in Flight, the history of aviation in Wisconsin and discovered a one-page article on the Wisconsin Ninety-Nines. While the article provided a general history of the Wisconsin chapter, it was the air racing theme that caught my attention. One paragraph named some of the state’s air race pilots including Lois Truchinski.

    “Over the years many other Wisconsin women participated in AWTAR,
    including Anne Roethke and Dorothy Parks of Madison,
    Lois Truchinski of Wisconsin Rapids and Dora Fritzke of Milwaukee…”

    excerpted from Forward in Flight, the history of aviation in Wisconsin

    Lois Truchinski (left) with copilot Pat Weir

    Lois Truchinski (left) with copilot Pat Weir

    Lois is from Wisconsin Rapids, my wife’s hometown. We were already in town for a wedding, and I was able to spend a little time researching files at the McMillan Memorial Library. After collecting some basic information about Lois, I contacted her and scheduled an interview for a few days later. We spent a delightful three hours with Lois as she described her life in aviation. Her life story, like most, is filled with opportunities and successes, challenges and failures, laughter and tears. It was the cross-country air racing that had piqued my interest and it is about that part of her story I remain most fascinated.

    Women pilots have competed in various air races since the 1929 transcontinental Women’s Air Derby. The annual race continued for 10 years until interrupted by World War II. The Ninety-Nines took a leadership role in the post-war races, which began in 1947. The race changed its name to the All-Woman Transcontinental Air Race (AWTAR) while embracing the Will Rogers’ “Powder Puff Derby” name as well. After 31 years and 30 races, the AWTAR ended with its last running in 1977. A race-minded group found financial-backing and the replacement Air Race Classic began with its first race in 1977. Eventually, funding through development of a non-profit organization brought a sense of longevity to the race, which continues today.

    1978 Angel Derby program cover

    1978 Angel Derby program cover

    Races are typically flown by two pilots who must meet minimum experience and certification requirements. The aircraft are also restricted in horsepower and equipment. Each airplane has a safety and compliance inspection prior to race departure.

    Lois raced four races, more transcontinental air races than any other Wisconsin pilot. She competed in the 1977 and 1978 Angel Derby – an international flight beginning in the United States and ending in Freeport, Bahamas. In 1979 and 1980, Lois and her copilot competed in the Air Race Classic. WAHF member/supporters can read the entire Lois Truchinski story in the upcoming Winter 2012 issue of Forward in Flight, our membership magazine. Becoming a WAHF member/supporter is easy and inexpensive, simply follow this link.

    Thank you to Susan Royce who provided the 1978 Angel Derby program cover and other race details.