Embry-Riddle Team Wins Collegiate Air Race Honors

** Daytona Beach team: Valdeta Mehanja,
left, and Danielle Erlichman with their
first-place trophy.**

Two students from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Daytona Beach campus finished first in the collegiate division of the Air Race Classic, one of the oldest and most revered air races for women. Pilots Valdeta Mehanja and Danielle Erlichman placed first among collegiate competitors and third overall in the four-day, transcontinental race, originally known as the “Powder Puff Derby” and first run in 1929.

The competition launched on June 18 from Tri-Cities Airport in Pasco, Washington and covered 2,448 statute miles and nine waypoints. The final destination airport was Drake Field in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Competitors included 45 teams from around the world, many from U.S. universities.

Competitors are judged on their own handicapped cruise speed, and the teams are supposed to fly the prescribed route as closely as possible while optimizing their average speed. The format is designed to focus on piloting ability, rather than the speed of the aircraft. Mehanja and Erlichman flew a Cessna 172.

The Air Race Classic also included teams from Jacksonville University, Liberty University, Louisiana Tech, Kansas State, Metropolitan State University, Middle Tennessee State, Purdue, Texas State Technical College, the University of North Dakota and the University of Oklahoma.

Both ERAU pilots are working toward B.S. degrees in aeronautical science, and Erlichman works at the university as a flight instructor. She also competed in last year’s Air Race Classic. Mehanja said, “It was a huge honor representing Embry-Riddle Daytona Beach Aeronautical University at the women’s Air Race Classic this year, and just being able to meet this small group of women from across the United States was an incredible opportunity for me.”

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Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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