Maryland pair to race around the world in plane


Nancy Law always wanted to see the world.

Now the 32-year-old Annapolis resident will -- quickly.

She and David Sherrill, president of Chesapeake Mobile Homes of Millersville, take off from Montreal on May 1 flying in an around-the-world airplane race.

If all goes as planned, they will circle the globe and return to Montreal on May 25.

Stopovers along the way include Morocco, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, India, Vietnam, Japan, Russia and Alaska. They will spend two nights in each place.

"We decided it would be a neat way to combine a wonderful trip with competition," Mr. Sherrill said.

Mr. Sherrill began flying 30 years ago for business trips. Ms. Law is a part-time flight attendant with American Airlines and took up flying in 1990 with a goal of becoming a commercial pilot.

The two met about a year and a half ago when Ms. Law began to co-pilot flights Mr. Sherrill made for his company.

In the fall, they decided to attempt the Arc En Ciel Round the World Air Race.

"It's exciting to go around the world, but to take yourself around the world is better," Ms. Law said.

Since September they have been working on a Piper Panther Navajo, a glistening white plane with red and blue stripes. They have added extra fuel tanks and have been testing the plane's limits, topping speeds of 275 mph (about half the speed of a passenger jet).

Before they take off, they will have spent $300,000 on the plane, equipment, fuel and entry fees, not including time they are taking off from work.

They plan to sell the plane when they return, "so our investment really is only $150,000," Mr. Sherrill said.

Certainly there are less expensive ways to see the world, but maybe none so thrilling.

The race is the second round-the-world competition organized by Arc En Ciel, a French company that specializes in air race promotions. Eighteen single- and twin-engine planes piloted by crews from the United States, Canada, Europe, India and Asia will compete in the handicapped race.

Each aircraft will compete against its own optimal speed as advertised by its manufacturer.

While the skill of the pilots and the choice of aircraft are important, much of the race will depend on luck, Mr. Sherrill said.

Weather, air traffic, and mechanical problems are factors that are beyond the control of the pilots.

They plan to fly at 20,000 feet in order to lower wind resistance and will carry extra fuel to reduce the number of stops.

Before the race, they plan to fine-tune the aircraft, install custom-fitted seats and practice flying at high altitudes to see how they and the machine hold up. Their plane is not pressurized, so they will have to use oxygen tanks.

The trip will be grueling. Unable to stand in the aircraft, they will take turns stretching out on a cot.

The biggest concern, they say, is the 12-hour flight over the Atlantic Ocean, because that is when they will be the most vulnerable. "It's not fear," Ms. Law said, "But you just kind of hope."

On the ground, there will be some time for sightseeing. The king of Morocco and the sheik of Dubai are scheduled to attend an awards ceremonies in their countries.

Prizes include trophies and certificates and caps.

Ms. Law, who has never traveled outside of North America, said she is eager to see the Taj Mahal.

Mr. Sherrill, who has traveled more extensively, has other goals. When asked what he's looking forward to seeing, he replied, "Us winning."


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