Edgewood woman takes her love of aviation to new heights

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The last time Janice Ribaudo of Edgewood took a commercial airline from Anchorage, Alaska, to Pittsburgh, with a layover in Phoenix, the trip took 18 hours. Today, she hopes to return home in less time by flying her own airplane.

Dr. Ribaudo, a physician and flight instructor, looked to establish an aviation record two weeks ago with her flight from Pittsburgh to Anchorage. She had made the same trip on her high-performance Mooney Ovation aircraft a few times before, but it took a recommendation from a colleague for her to consider filing for an official record. No pilot before her had done so.

While Ms. Ribaudo's claim is still pending review, preliminary figures have her June 16 flight time at 20 hours and 33 minutes, with a speed of 155 mph, according to Art Greenfield, director of contest and records at the National Aeronautic Association.

This morning at around 2 a.m., Dr. Ribaudo was scheduled to depart Anchorage to begin what could be a second record-setting flight, aiming to complete her trip home in about 16 hours. The purpose of her flying ventures, Dr. Ribaudo said, is to promote aviation.

"If I can make a flight like this, then certainly more people can start to use their airplanes for tools, rather than using the commercial airlines," Ms. Ribaudo said.

"I think general aviation is the ultimate freedom this country has to offer," she added.

Dr. Ribaudo said she thinks more individuals and businesses should take advantage of the great opportunity for travel presented by aviation. She said Alaska is a pilot's dream because it has an infrastructure highly dependent on flight. In parts of the state, residents take an airplane to complete a task as simple as going to a doctor's appointment or the grocery, sometimes because there is no other option.

On her way west, Ms. Ribaudo made stops in Canada, including Winnipeg and High Level, Alberta. She had originally intended to finish her flight short of Alaska in Whitehorse, Yukon, and had officials at the airport there waiting for her arrival. But after reaching High Level, she decided the weather was good enough that she could increase her altitude to save fuel and fly straight through to Anchorage.

"I said, 'Thanks guys, I really appreciate it, but I think I'm going to go all the way,' " Ms. Ribaudo said.

When she was crossing into Yukon, air traffic control in Edmonton asked if she would monitor a frequency. To her surprise, she was getting calls from pilots with Alaska Airlines, FedEx and Frontier Airlines, who had all begun rooting for her after hearing what she was trying to accomplish, Ms. Ribaudo said.

The trip back will take less time, due to prevailing winds and because she will not have to stop at customs. Ms. Ribaudo plans to stick to an entirely U.S.-based route. She will fly from Anchorage to Ketchikan, Alaska; then to Billings, Montana; completing her final leg of the journey and landing at the Allegheny County Airport.

"Typically the prevailing wind will make a difference," Mr. Greenfield said. "You would expect normally the trip westbound would take longer than the trip back this way."

Dr. Ribaudo said that after word spread among her students and colleagues about her planned flight north, she received roughly $2,000 in sponsorships from a variety of sources. Costs involved in the trip will total about $6,100.


Gavan Gideon: ggideon@post-gazette.com or 412-263-4910.


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