For a while at least, Miss Vermont was far above the competition to become the next Miss America.

A licensed pilot, Erin Connor flew herself from Burlington, Vt., to an airport just outside Atlantic City, N.J., on Sunday, three days before the contestants were to meet the public in the annual welcoming ceremony on the famous Boardwalk.

"I like to make an entrance anywhere I go," she said.

She completed the 350-mile flight in about two-and-a-half hours in a Piper Arrow, with two others aboard. Not making the trip, however, were the half-dozen or so evening gowns she'll need when preliminary competition begins next week. Dad drove them down from Vermont.

Connor is one of 51 contestants (each state plus the District of Columbia) who will be introduced to the public late Wednesday afternoon across from Boardwalk Hall, the historic arena where three days of preliminaries will lead up to the nationally televised finale on ABC on Sept. 10.