The year was 1929. Nineteen women strapped on their goggles, climbed into open cockpits and started their engines for the first Powder Puff Derby, racing to prove that even women could fly.

Now 80 years later, women pilots competing in the Air Race Classic honor that first trailblazing race -- including Germantown resident Pat Manos Kraemer. With a doctorate in biochemistry and several other degrees, Manos Kraemer escapes to aviation as a pastime when she isn't pursuing her career at the National Institutes of Health.

Manos Kraemer flew in this year's three-day race with a team of two other women, placing 24th out of 47 and winning the last leg of the race between Parkersburg, W.Va., and Frederick.

They raced 2,483 miles in a Cessna 182T, starting in Fort Myers, Fla., on June 22 and ending in Frederick on June 24.

The first leg of the race was the most difficult, Manos Kraemer said. After mechanical issues forced their plane to need a jump, the team finally took off in next-to-last place.

"We didn't know what we were doing, basically. It was pretty tense. Our cockpit resource management needed to be worked out. But the rest of [the race] was a hoot," Manos Kraemer said. "It was probably the best vacation I've had in a long time."

The three women took turns piloting, with the airplane at maximum speed, sometimes clocking about 190 mph.

The team benefited from state-of-the-art technology for navigation, rather than relying on maps and the naked eye as competitors did in the 1929 race.

Even then, the race was still a challenge.

"I think this is the best training exercise someone can go on to improve their basic piloting skills," she says.

At a glance »  The Air Race Classic is an annual, cross-country race for women pilots. »  The competition started in 1977. Fifty-five teams flew in this year's race, with 47 finishing in the competition class. »  This year's competitors flew from Fort Myers, Fla., to Frederick, Md., with stops in Waycross, Ga., Tuscaloosa, Ala., Hot Springs, Ark., Cameron, Mo., Murphysboro, Ill., Elkhart, Ind. and Parkersburg, W.Va. »  At each stop, planes had the option to land and refuel or to keep going, performing a "fly-by" so their times could be measured. Planes were only allowed to fly in daylight. »  The competition required a test flight before the start of the race to determine each plane's handicap. This made the race a test of piloting and navigation skill, not just airplane speed. »  Airplanes having between 125 to 600 horsepower were allowed to compete.

And there's still room to grow. "There's a lot of ways to fly the race. Since we came in about middle, I'm sure there's a lot we can learn."

She said she's considering doing the race again next year, perhaps with the same teammates. Part of racing's attraction is the friends she makes.

"The people that you meet in this group are usually strong, independent women," she says of her aviation club, the Ninety-Nines, named after the original 99 women pilots who flew in the 1929 race.

Both of Manos Kraemer's co-pilots are grandmothers and business owners.

"They like doing fun things. ... These are women who you're not going to find crying about whatever. They're going to be out on their Harleys having a kick-butt time."

Manos Kraemer rides a motorcycle, but it's a Honda Rebel instead of a Harley-Davidson.

The sensation of flying is what drew Manos Kraemer to airplanes.

"All it took was one ride, and that was it. I was hooked," she says.

After her first flight in graduate school, she worked extra part-time jobs to get her pilot's certificate. It took her a year and multiple interruptions, but she finished, studying biochemistry at the same time.

Manos Kraemer can't pinpoint exactly what it is that made her love flying so much.

"I just enjoyed it. I love science, and I was working on my doctorate at the time, and I was in the lab, and being in the air ..." she trails off, contemplating. "I don't know. There's probably a neuroscientific explanation to it. Maybe I just fell in love."

Her passion for flying led her to her husband, Harry Kraemer, a pilot and owner of Kraemer Aviation Services. They met at the Montgomery County Airpark in Gaithersburg.

The Kraemers' dream now is to live next to an airport. Manos Kraemer says she would love to wake up and go flying in her pajamas.

Another goal is to become a certified flight instructor, which requires passing a practical test and several written exams.

"I love them both, science and aviation, and the whole key is in the balance," she says. "It's so often that people get obsessed with the domestic parts of life, and there's nothing wrong with that, but it's nice to have these other worlds to escape into."