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Pilot wins cross-country airplane race

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Corbi Bulluck placed first with teammate Stephanie Wrenn in the 43rd annual Air Race Classic, which is a cross-country contest exclusively for women.

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BY WILLIAM F. WEST
Staff Writer

Friday, July 19, 2019

When one hears or sees the name Bulluck in the Rocky Mount area, the local Chevrolet dealership family immediately comes to mind.

One of the family members, Corbi Bulluck, is an aviator. Make that now a national award-winning aviator.

Bulluck, who once was a regional commercial airline pilot and a state Transportation Department pilot, recently co-won a cross-country airplane race exclusively for women pilots.

Bulluck, 61, and her teammate, Stephanie Wrenn, 36, finished first in the 43rd annual Air Race Classic.

Bulluck and Wrenn received $6,000 and a trophy for winning a 2,538-mile, daylight-only competition in June. The air route was from Jackson, Tenn., to Welland, in Canada’s Ontario province and northwest of Buffalo, N.Y.

The competition coincided with the 90th anniversary of women engaging in airplane racing.

Bulluck, who lives in the Raleigh-Durham area, presently is vice president of the Ninety-Nines, which is the International Organization of Women Pilots. The number is a reference to how many women pilots began the organization. Aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart was the organization’s first president.

Bullock told the Telegram she has been on cloud nine since winning the Air Race Classic.

“Right now, if you could see me, I have the stupidest grin on my face because it was just wonderful, wonderful and so exciting,” she said.

Although she grew up in an automobile dealership family, her late grandfather Don Bulluck Sr. once flew planes for pleasure. And her father, Don Bulluck Jr., was bitten by the aviation bug later in his life and took to flying.

As for the reason for her interest in aviation, Corbi Bulluck said, “I’d like to say maybe I always wanted to learn to fly.”

Corbi Bulluck spoke of her and fellow family members getting into a Jeep to ride to the former Rocky Mount Municipal Airport to see air shows.

She also told of the time when she was in the seventh grade and had to write a report about what she wanted to do when she grew up.

At the time, she did not know women could be pilots, so she wrote that she wanted to be a stewardess because she would be going places via airplanes.

She went to UNC-Chapel Hill on a scholarship, majored in education, taught in Wake County Public Schools for about eight years and fell in love with aviation.

“I accidentally ended up learning to fly,” she said. “I just walked into the right place at the right time and it was all about learning to fly. And that’s what did it. I realized, ‘Why not?’”

After a few years as an instructor, she worked for half a dozen years as an Atlanta-based pilot for Atlantic Southeastern Airlines, which is a Delta Connection carrier.

She served as a state Transportation Department executive pilot for 20 years, with her passenger list over time including Govs. Jim Hunt, Mike Easley, Beverly Perdue, Pat McCrory and Roy Cooper.

Of the VIPs she flew, Corbi Bulluck recalled Perdue as fearless.

“She did not worry about whether it was bumpy, turbulent, bad weather, good weather,” Corbi Bulluck said. “She got in the back and she was very comfortable.”

Corbi Bulluck spoke of being in the skies as both a joyous and relaxing experience.

“I feel like I’m the luckiest person when I’m in my airplane flying,” she said.

Wrenn is a Burlington native who is in the massage business in the Raleigh-Durham area and who met Bulluck through the Ninety-Nines. Wrenn described Bulluck as like a mentor.

Wrenn and Bulluck teamed up in the Air Race Classic twice before, in 2015 and in 2018.

“To be able to be a part of the event is just so unique and special,” Wrenn told the Telegram. “But to be able to win, I mean, it’s still something I’m processing.”

Wrenn said her interest in aviation can be traced to her uncle Bill Taylor, who has long had an Elizabeth City-based chain of McDonald’s restaurants in northeastern North Carolina and in Virginia’s Hampton Roads area. Wrenn spoke of Taylor having an airplane for business and pleasure and taking her flying.

As for what Bulluck is like as an aviator, Wrenn said, “She’s focused. She’s detail oriented. She can multi-task.”

More specifically, Wrenn said Bulluck is a perfectionist.

“And she makes me be a more competitive person because I want to be a great partner to her and co-pilot and friend — and be to her what she has been to me,” Wrenn said. “And she is the pilot that I look up to and aspire to be, to be honest.”

Don Bulluck Jr., 87, told the Telegram of his daughter, “I’m extremely proud of her, as you could imagine.”