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Colleen Keller

Race # 52

Lancair Legacy – “Poncho”


Colleen first came to flying in the early 90′s after she caught the bug while working with Navy pilots aboard aircraft carriers as part of her job as a Navy Operations Research Analyst. Told she was “too old” at 26 to join the Navy to fly jets, she opted for a private pilot’s license, training out of North Island Naval Air Station’s flying club. She completed her private, instrument, and commercial training in her Cessna Cardinal RG, which she owns to this day.

Colleen’s seven years of racing in the Ninety-Nines’ Palms to Pines (cross country) Air Race and nine years crewing for various friends in the Sport Class at Reno served to whet her appetite for pylon racing. A long friendship with Jim “JT” Thomas led to the eventual realization of her dream when JT asked her to pilot his beautiful Lancair Legacy, “Poncho”, as Race 52 in 2013, the 50th year of the National Championship Air Races. Colleen earned her racing license and FAST wingman card at the2013 Pylon Racing Seminar, and piloted Poncho in the Sport Silver class that September, placing fourth with an average race speed of 282 mph.

In addition to flying fast and turning left, Colleen also enjoys flying inverted whenever she can in her Steen Skybolt Experimental biplane. She is an active member of IAC Chapter 49, the Los Angeles Aerobatic Club, and has competed in aerobatic contests in the southwest. She is a graduate of Miramar College’s Aviation Maintenance Program, earning her A&P rating in 2008. Her formal education includes both Bachelors and Masters degrees in Physics from Dartmouth College and The Johns Hopkins University. Colleen is also an active Search and Rescue volunteer with the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, and one of the founders of the Missing Aircraft Search Team.

Race 52 is a Lancair Legacy powered by an experimental IO-550G Continental engine which was modified by a well-known engine shop and which turns a polished Hartzel scimitar propeller. Jim Thomas incorporated over 20 custom modifications into the plane when he built it over a 6-year period from 2001-2007. The plane sports the owner’s lucky numbers 5 and 2 on a pair of rolling dice on the nose, and the paint scheme is based on the famous GeeBee race plane.



Photo By: Neal Nurmi – Wingman Photo