Carmel girl rides in Red Bull Air Race parade


By Mark Ambrogi

Grace Lucka loves the feeling she has in the cockpit.

“I like that that I get to fly airplanes and go into the flight simulators,” said Grace, who is a fourth grader at Carmel’s Cherry Tree Elementary.

Grace, 9, has participated in Flight1 since she was 4 years old. Flight1 is a charitable organization for children who have experienced illness or loss in their family. Her father, Rob Lucka, died from a rare form of sarcoma cancer at 43. Grace was five months old at the time, and the family was living in Noblesville.

As part of Flight1, Grace was one of two Flight1 children chosen to ride in the Red Bull Air Race parade Oct. 2 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Grace said she enjoyed the parade and rooting for the pilot that rode in the same parade car with her. That was Canada’s Pete McLeod, who finished third.

“She has been taught to fly airplanes, because the organization believes in instilling confidence and courage in children,” said Gayle Lucka, her mother. “She has gotten to fly an airplane three times over the last three years. She has actually sat in the pilot in command seat with an instructor in the co-pilot seat. The flight before she was jumping up and down because she got to talk to Indianapolis tower on the radio.”

Gayle has private pilot license. Rob was an Air Force Academy graduate and a commercial pilot for UPS Airlines. He also flew in the U.S. Air Force Reserves out of Grissom Air Force.

“She wants to go to the Air Force Academy like her daddy did,” Gayle said.

Now Grace can help other children in the Flight1 program.

“They call upon her to help other kids who are hesitant to fly or might be too nervous,” Gayle said. “They might not have the confidence Grace has after flying four times, including the last time on a night flight.”

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