Nick Lenczycki, MTSU Flight Operations program manager, said Taylor and Keller "have been working very hard, preparing for this trip.
"They have worked tirelessly finding sponsors, promoting the event and aggressively planning to compete," he added. "They have put in the time and effort. They will represent MTSU well."
The duo will log about 4,000 miles and 40 hours round trip by the time they return to Murfreesboro. The Air Race Classic, which stopped in Murfreesboro in 2016, features nine stops along the route that zig-zags to the north and then to the east, ending in Maine.
They had to pack for 12 days' travel. Apparel includes four matching outfits. They have to plan for banquets, a hiring fair, other scheduled events and flying without air conditioning.
Of utmost importance is safety. They will not fly when it's cloudy or overcast and can only fly from sunrise to sunset.
Taylor's parents, Mary Beth and Mark Taylor of Franklin, took them to breakfast Wednesday morning and plan to meet them at a stop along the way. Mary Beth Taylor is a flight attendant with United Airlines.
Keller's mother, Shanda Keller of Maryville, plans to meet them at the Ohio stopover. Other family and friends will greet them at most of the other stops. Elizabeth Keller's grandfather, Barney Evans, was in the Air National Guard in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Sponsors include Kelmont Farms Inc., Murfreesboro Aviation, Xpress Aircraft Maintenance, Pet Goat Farm, Open Roads Media and MTSU aerospace.
MTSU has more than 240 combined undergraduate and graduate programs. Aerospace is one of 11 College of Basic and Applied Sciences departments. For more information, call 615-898-2788.