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Air Race Classic winner Elaine Roehrig mourned

Roehrig had logged more than 15,000 hours before retiring from flight instruction in 2018.

Between 1987 and 2010 Roehrig participated in the transcontinental Air Race Classic proficiency contest 20 times, flying with teammate and former student Marolyn Wilson. They competed in Roehrig’s 1965 Piper Cherokee and earned five top-10 finishes and two wins—in 2003 and 2004.

Air Race Classic Director Minnetta Gardinier posted to The Ninety-Nines International Organization of Women Pilots’ Facebook page that Roehrig was a “great lady with a great story.”

In the early 1970s Roehrig was recognized by the FAA as a Gold Seal Flight Instructor for her “high personal qualifications and good records,” and she was appointed to the agency’s accident prevention program. She was recognized by the FAA as the Eastern Region’s flight instructor of the year in 1981 and was presented a Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award in 2004 for 50 years of “professionalism, skill, and aviation expertise.”

At age 16, when Roehrig was too young for college or World War II military service, she worked as an aircraft spotter, air raid warden, and ambulance driver and mechanic. In 1943 she took an introductory flight and was so enthralled that she worked three jobs to pay for flying lessons, an obituary noted.

In 1944 Roehrig earned a private pilot certificate. She added a commercial pilot certificate in 1945 and went on to become a certificated flight instructor the same year, a calling that punctuated her life. Roehrig was recognized as one of the pioneer female flight instructors in central New York, and she trained military pilots to become civilian flight instructors after their World War II service.

Roehrig and her husband, retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Charles “Chick” Roehrig, restored a Piper J–3 Cub and built two experimental aircraft, a Wittman Tailwind, and a Pietenpol. He died in 2009.

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