The start of a national cross country race for women pilots has moved from Vista Field to the Tri-Cities Airport.
Bergstrom Aircraft announced this week that it will play host to the start of the Air Race Classic 2013 in Pasco.
The national race hasn't started in Pasco since 1984.
"We are ready to roll out the red carpet and show the racers, their friends and family, judges, committee members and volunteers that the Tri-Cities is an extraordinary place with sunshine, beautiful landscapes and the best hospitality around," said Malin Bergstrom, Bergstrom Aircraft's president.
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The event is expected to draw at least 200 people, including pilots and judges.
The local Air Race Classic Start 2013 committee initially planned to bring the event to Vista Field. But the group told the Port of Kennewick last month that it was moving the event to another airport after port staff worried if they could justify spending $25,000 on airport improvements for the race.
"We really wanted to hold it in Kennewick at Vista Field," said Marjy Leggett of the Mid-Columbia Ninety-Nines, who serves as the committee's chairwoman.
But it wasn't possible without more airplane tie-downs, and the group was fast approaching a deadline for submitting information to its national committee, she said.
Since the Experimental Aircraft Association already holds the Richland Fly-In each year with help from the Mid-Columbia Ninety-Nines, Leggett said they turned to the Tri-Cities Airport.
But they still hope to make the Air Race Classic a Tri-Cities-wide event, and Leggett said they are keeping the Kennewick Red Lion as the event hotel.
Port of Kennewick Commission Chairman Skip Novakovich said they were surprised when the group decided to move the start, but he wished the Air Race Classic committee well.
He said Bergstrom Aircraft will be a good host.
Tri-Cities Airport Director Ron Foraker said the airport doesn't have events like this often.
It likely will be as popular as the Water Follies Air Show and the Wings of Freedom Tour with its World War II planes, he said.
The 2,500-mile course starts in Pasco and ends in Fayetteville, Ark.
While the race doesn't start until June 18, Bergstrom said pilots will be coming in for the event four to six days beforehand.
Leggett recently returned from participating in this year's Air Race Classic.
"It's exhausting and it's kind of grueling," she said. But, mostly, it was fun, and a chance to meet women pilots from the United States and other countries.
The winner is the pilot who comes out the most above her handicap speed, which is determined individually for each plane, Leggett said.
This was Leggett's second time flying in the race; her first race was in 1995.
Bergstrom said her company would have been involved in the Air Race Classic even if it had stayed at Vista Field.
Now, Bergstrom said they will provide the facilities, mechanics and hangar space, in addition being the host fixed-base operator.
Bergstrom said they hope to make it easy for the public to watch the start of the race.
"This is an opportunity for the Tri-Cities to showcase this area," Leggett said.