Air Race Classic podcast

Nashville Flight Training team wins national all-female air race on first try

This summer, pilots Mariah Ferber and Paige Kessler, flying for Nashville Flight Training, won the 2018 Air Race Classic, an annual all-female aviation event stretching across 2,600 miles and 10 states over four days.

The team flew their Cessna 172R to victory based on the handicap speed assigned to their make and model aircraft. Mariah and Paige finished the race with an elapsed time of 5 hours, 50 minutes and 24.382 seconds. Their speed of 154.148 mph beat their handicap by 11.197 mph.

Mariah recently sat down with Mike Harris, chief pilot and host of the “Why We Fly” podcast, to talk about the team’s recent victory and how they beat the odds to win on their first outing. Following are excerpts from the interview:

About the race…

The Air Race Classic is a VFR-only daytime race. Before the race begins, you fly a rectangular pattern and get your best airspeed. Then you’re racing against yourself, trying to get the best tailwinds to beat your speed. That’s how the points work. Sometimes the last person to finish can actually win the race.

The way you beat your own time is to find the best tailwinds. That includes picking the best altitudes, trying to wait and get the best day to fly versus flying on a day where there are headwinds.

About the aircraft…

We flew a Cessna 172 provided by Nashville Flight Training – 180 horsepower with just a six-pack [instrument panel] and Garmin GDL. So we had a GPS that was just for reference, and we used the iPad with ADS-B.

We didn’t know this beforehand, but Paige ended up flying a little more than I did because she’s going through instrument training, and her touch was a lot better than mine. She was holding her heading to within 2-3 degrees and her altitude within 10-20 feet. Then I’d get the controls and I’d be 50 feet and 10 degrees off. She was my private pilot student – here I am, an instructor with more hours, and my prior student is showing me up. Some aircraft had autopilot, so they had that advantage, but we were [hand-flying] the whole time.

Leading up to the race…

Paige received her Private Pilot’s License in February, so I asked if she wanted to fly the Air Race with me. She said yes, so I said, ‘Good, you need to go get 100 hours of PIC [pilot in command] time.’ So I was constantly texting her before the race asking, ‘Have you flown lately? How much have you flown? How close are you?’ So I basically dragged her into this, and now we’ve both caught the fever.

Highlights of the race…

One of the biggest highlights of the race was that you’re with so many other women pilots. In aviation right now in the United States, women pilots make up only about 6% [of the workforce]. So when we went, I was just amazed by all these really cool women. We met an older woman who had 25 patents and had won an Edison award. We got to meet Gene Nora [Jessen] who was one of the Mercury 13.

Our original goal was to place in the top 25. We made Nashville Flight Training proud. Everybody showed so much love afterward – on Facebook, texting us, saying, ‘Congrats girls, so proud of you.’

What’s next…

After winning the Air Race Classic, it really opened my mind up to doing so much more in aviation. I’d like to try aerobatics. I’d like to get my tailwheel endorsement. I’d like to fly my own aircraft outside the U.S., maybe the Bahamas or Canada, which is where the Air Race is going next year.

If you’re out there and wanting to get your license, don’t stop. Keep going. Get through that first solo, do your solo cross-country, get your private pilot [license], and keep adding to it. That’s what aviation is – an adventure.

“We are beyond thrilled with the results of our race team,” said Chris Erlanson, president of Nashville Flight Training. “Mariah and Paige have exceeded the expectations of our first year attempt in the Air Race Classic. Their skill has inspired not only our school but future female pilots who are wanting to learn to fly!”

Connect with the Air Race Classic Nashville team on Facebook at

Listen to the Why We Fly podcast

The Path to Professional Piloting

For many aspiring aviators, the dream of becoming an airline pilot seems out of reach, reserved only for those who can afford a four-year college degree and have years of flying experience. However, that’s a myth. In fact, there are many reasons why it’s now easier than ever to become a professional pilot.

1) Airlines are Facing a Pilot Shortage

Just last year, Boeing released some startling statistics that over the next 20 years there will be a need for roughly 640,000 pilots worldwide, with approximately 117,000 in the United States alone ( Simply put, the aviation industry is in need of pilots. Regional airlines are continuing to offer competitive pay, benefits, and signing bonuses in response to the demand. The time to launch your career as an airline pilot is NOW.

2) A College Degree Isn’t Mandatory

Although a college degree is helpful (and can be obtained through our partnership with Embry-Riddle), it isn’t mandatory to have a successful career as a pilot. The training regimen to become a pilot allows you to learn at your own pace and gain the focused skills you need. You don’t need prior experience to start training — you can start today. At Nashville Flight Training we train students from beginner stage to airline-ready on a daily basis.

3) Training is More Affordable than You Might Think

At Nashville Flight Training you don’t need to go $100,000 in debt while becoming a pilot, like you might with a college degree. With our affordable rates and scholarship options, the path to becoming a pilot is more economical than other flight training options. Our “pay as you go” program allows you to train at your own pace and budget.

4) Hands-on Training

Perhaps the best news is that our location at Nashville International Airport (BNA) gives you a level of experience not found at other schools. Learning how to fly out of a busy, towered airport with the big airlines will give you the ability and confidence to fly anywhere, for anyone.

Call us today at (615) 366-9192 to find out more or to schedule a tour! The skies are calling!

Rusty Pilots Seminar November 17, 2018 from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm


…BUT IF YOU’RE FEELING A LITTLE RUSTY…Join fellow lapsed pilots at our upcoming Rusty Pilots seminar!

We’ll help you brush up on your aviation knowledge and understand what’s changed since you last took the controls. You Can Fly Rusty Pilots seminars, held in partnership with local flight training providers, are the easiest way to get current again and rejoin general aviation in YOUR community. It’s easier than you think!


To register, please visit:

Cost: Free for AOPA Members
$69 for non-members

Join AOPA and save now or register as
a non-member and pay $69 fee.

Date: Saturday, November 17, 2018
Time: 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Location: Nashville Flight Training – Nashville International Airport (BNA) – 801 Hangar Lane – Hangar #7 Nashville, TN 37217

Nashville Flight Training Sponsors Team for All-Female Air Race Classic

Nashville Flight Training is supporting a team of two young female pilots in this year’s Air Race Classic taking place June 19-22.

The Air Race Classic is an annual all-female aviation event stretching across 2,600 miles and 10 states over four days. Pilots range in age from 17 to 90 years old.

Mariah and Paige (Team #61, pictured, l to r) are representing Nashville Flight Training, which is providing a Cessna 172R for the race. Follow the team on Facebook @AirRaceClassicNashville.

The team departs Nashville about 9 p.m. on Friday, June 15, heading to Sweetwater, Texas, where the race begins on June 19. The race finishes on June 22 in Fryeburg, Maine.


Race routing

Sweetwater, TX: Avenger Field (KSWW)
Alva, OK: Alva Regional Airport (KAVK)
Beatrice, NE: Beatrice Municipal Airport (KBIE)
Faribault, MN: Faribault Municipal Airport (KFBL)
Galesburg, IL: Galesburg Municipal Airport (KGBG)
Auburn, IN: De Kalb County Airport (KGWB)
Cadillac, MI: Wexford County Airport (KCAD)
Newark, OH: Newark-Heath Airport (KVTA)
Penn Yan, NY: Penn Yan Airport (KPEO)
Fryeburg, ME: Eastern Slopes Regional Airport (KIZG)

Additional support provided by the Adventure Science Center in Nashville and Discovery Center at Murfree Spring in Murfreesboro.

School Receives Flight Training Excellence Award for Third Consecutive Year


Nashville Flight Training has been recognized again for a high standard of accomplishment in flight training by the world’s largest aviation association, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA). The flight school has been named a recipient of the 2017 Flight Training Experience Award and recognized as a Distinguished Flight School, a title given to highest-scoring flight schools from AOPA’s annual Flight Training Experience Survey. This is the third consecutive year Nashville Flight Training has been honored with a spot on the prestigious aviation industry list.

“This year’s group of schools and CFIs were especially close as we analyzed the results of the 2017 Flight Training Experience Survey,” said Chris Moser, director of AOPA’s Flight Training Initiative. “It gives me great confidence to both hear about some incredible flight training providers and to see how much their customers truly value them.”

AOPA’s Flight Training Excellence Awards were created to highlight the best flight training the industry has to offer, recognizing best practices in excellent customer service, quality education, community development, and sharing knowledge. The 2017 awards were drawn from flight students and pilots around the world who voluntarily reviewed their flight training experience last summer through an AOPA online customer satisfaction survey. The survey included reviews of 1,048 different flight schools and 2,012 individual flight instructors.

“We are honored to have a place again on this respected aviation industry list,” said Chris Erlanson, Nashville Flight Training president. “We’re proud of our instructors and support staff who share a passion for and commitment to excellence in aviation. I am thankful to the AOPA and our students for recognizing their hard work.”


About Nashville Flight Training
Established in 2010, Nashville Flight Training provides affordable flight instruction from award winning, FAA-certified instructors and offers state-of-the-art equipment. The flight training facility is based at the Nashville International Airport. Information about Nashville Flight Training is available at