Shrewsbury woman flies high in air race
By Joan Goodchild, Community Reporter
Shrewsbury – For as long as she can remember, Shrewsbury native Danielle Erlichman has loved planes and flying.
“We would travel when I was little and I loved the idea that a plane could bring members of our family closer together,” recalled the 2008 Shrewsbury High School graduate. “I just loved being in a plane.”
Now that she is a college student, Erlichman is turning this lifelong passion into her life’s work by studying aeronautical science at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, in Florida, where she is currently a rising senior and a part-time flight instructor.
While she has been studying and earning her degree, she’s also been busy flying across the country. Erlichman, along with Embry-Riddle graduate Marisha Falk, recently won first place in the collegiate category and second overall for the 2012 all-women’s Air Race Classic, a four-day race in which female pilots compete by flying from Arizona to Ohio.
“Each plane has a handicap speed and you get points added or taken away for being above or below it,” Erlichman explained. “There are 10 mandatory stopping points along the route, and you have four days to complete it.”
Erlichman, who first received her pilot’s license in 2009, was chosen by the university to compete in the race and used a university plane to do so. Erlichman piloted the plane for the race, while Falk, who has competed in the event before, served as co-pilot.
“The biggest challenge was encountering different kinds of terrain,” Erlichman said. “There was a good amount of mountainous terrain and we had to change our flight strategy. The other big challenge was the weather.”
Erlichman hopes to race in the event again next summer. The course changes from year to year, so it is always a challenge, she noted. After graduation in December, she’ll be going on to get a master’s degree in aviation safety at Embry-Riddle. Her career goal is to be an airline pilot – a field where women are still very much in the minority.
“There are a much smaller percentage of female airline pilots,” she said. “I’m inspired even more to pursue it.”
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