Carson aviatrix to defend crown |

Carson aviatrix to defend crown

by Kurt Hildebrand

Carson City aviatrix Dene Chabot-Fence is in Silver City, N.M., preparing Tuesday to defend her crown in the 26th Air Race Classic all-women transcontinental air race.

The 69-year-old naturopathic doctor and owner of the Vitamin Villa Health Food Store in Carson City has participated in 11 classics, having won the last one after it was cut short by bad weather.

Chabot-Fence flies a 1966 Cherokee Piper 180C with co-pilot Gloria May of Kerman, Calif.

The route this year will fly from Silver City, located in southwestern New Mexico, 2,166 miles to Chesapeake, Va. by June 21.

Chabot-Fence and May arrived in Silver City on Friday after having to turn back the day before because the aircraft developed an electrical short.

“Everything is OK now, but the electrical shut down and we had no instruments,” she said from her hotel Saturday. “Fortunately the engine kept running on the magnetos and I hightailed it back to Carson City. That plane doesn’t run with bare shorts.”

Chabot-Fence said she was a little cautious with the plane after the repairs, but was able to fly it down to New Mexico with only one stop in Eagle, Ariz., for fuel.

“We got in last night at 6 p.m. and we’re here in good shape,” she said. When she and May arrived, they were greeted by Boy Scouts, who helped out with the plane.

“I gave them a donation for their chapter,” she said. “They helped clean the airplane. It was a big help.”

Tornadoes in Arkansas resulted in a shortening of last year’s Classic and Chabot-Fence said the weather reports are again looking bad.

“It is not too hot here, yet, but we are looking at the same God-awful weather hanging around Arkansas,” she said. “This is always a game of weather and whether or not you should go.”

She said about 40 airplanes and their crews are in Silver City, waiting for Tuesday’s green flag.

“All the airplanes are in that are going to be in,” she said. “We just got through with inspections. They tore down the engine and put it back together. We’ve drawn number 60 so it will be 10 or 15 minutes before we get the green flag.”

Her plan is to get into the air and go as far and as fast as she can.

“We’re hoping to make Burlington, Colo., the first day and then maybe to Tennessee on the second,” she said. “We’ll go right behind the weather and hope it moves faster than we do.”

Chabot-Fence said she hopes to make South Carolina the day before the finish, so they can get across the finish line as quickly as possible on June 21.

Chabot-Fence is a retired mechanical engineer, and a member of the Reno Area Chapter of 99s, International Organization of Women Pilots.

There are more than 50 members of the Reno chapter of the 99s, which was formed in 1964.

The Air Race Classic began in 1977 when the All Women’s Transcontinental Air Race, known as the Powder Puff Derby, held its last flight.

Races are held in the last two weeks of June and each entry must carry two licensed pilots.