Published: Jun 18, 2010 10:58 PM EDT
Updated: Jun 18, 2010 6:34 PM EDT

FORT MYERS, Fla. - A hundred years ago, the first female pilot was licensed. Now, there are 113 women in 54 small planes flying in the all-woman Air Race Classic. Two of the teams are from Southwest Florida.

"Only six percent of the pilots in the U.S. are women," says local flyer Ellen Herr, "so we're doing this to encourage more women to realize they can fly and get interested in aviation."

Included are nine college teams, learning things you can't learn in the classroom.

"We get to go see other parts of the country," says Sabrina Zwego of Southern Illinois University, "So when we teach about mountain wave or flying in high-density altitude airports, we don't ever get to really experience it."

The race has eight legs from Fort Myers to Maryland and the pilots take off Tuesday. They are timed per leg and will cover a total of more than 2,000 miles.

"You have to stay on that route, you can't deviate around things, so you have to do some planning, pick the right altitude, so you can get the fastest speed," says Herr.

The planes are clocked as they cross timing lines. Then they land and fuel up (or keep going if they think they have enough gas),  and take off again. They're timed again once they cross the timing line on their way to their next airport.

"The timing lines are the most exciting," says organizer Terry Carbonell, "because we do them at full speed and 200 feet off the ground."

The teams are planning a full weekend of activities. For more information, go to www.paradisecoast99s.org.