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July 30, 2013

Pilots have a ball at AirVenture race

MT. VERNON – For many of the pilots taking part, Sunday's 2013 EAA AirVenture Cup Race was more about having fun than earning the best time.

The event featured a total of 47 racers, piloting experimental aircraft of all shapes and sizes. Pilots launched from Mt. Vernon Outland Airport Sunday morning and finished the race by flying over the Waupaca, Wis. Municipal Airport.

And even though the race presented numerous challenges, the pilots were in high spirits prior to take-off. The atmosphere was friendly instead of competitive.

“These airplanes, most of them, are realistically in the toy category. We don't use them for business,” said pilot Keith Phillips of Florida, who flew a Swearingen SX-300 in the race. “So (this) allows you to get together with your toys.”

The race drew hundreds of people to the Mt. Vernon Airport this past weekend.

While the main race was on Sunday, there was also a day-long open house Saturday where the public could view the airplanes on display and talk to the racers.

“I think it's a good family outing,” said Pam Kirkpatrick of Woodlawn. “The kids love the planes.”

Also on Saturday, there was a Mt. Vernon 100 race featuring about 20 aircraft, and free plane rides were offered for children as part of the Young Eagles program.

“I think it's great for the kids,” said Melissa Gibson of Bluford, whose children, Spiros and Katie Giatras, went on a free plane ride. “I think it gives them a great opportunity.”

The AirVenture Cup Race is considered one of the world's fastest cross country air races. The initial race occurred at Kitty Hawk, N.C., in 1998, and this is Mt. Vernon's first time hosting the competition.

“The main benefit to this is exposure for our airport on a national level, actually international, there's a lot of Canadian airplanes here,” said Chris Collins, airport manager. “So they get to see Southern Illinois and our hospitality.”

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