Ralph McElroy was born in Saskatchewan in 1929. He joined the RCAF as a telecommuniations technician as a teenager. He rose from the ranks to receive an officer's commission and was posted to SHAPE headquarters in Belgium.
He learned to fly in Belgium in a small fabric plane with minimal instruments. Ralph experimemted with instrument flying with the plane's partial panel, but did not pursue an IFR rating.
Returning to National Defense Headquarters in the 1970's, Ralph joined the Smiths Fall Flying Club. He acquired an instructor's rating and taught for a while at SFFC. Ralph retired from the airforce but was called back to install the first electronic air combat range tracking system at Cold Lake, Alberta.
Returning from Alberta, Ralph bought a farm near Smiths Falls and started another career with farming. After selling the farm he and his wife Ina moved to Smiths Falls and he rejoined the Smiths Falls Flying Club in 2007-08. After decades of no flying it was time to start again as he neared the age of 80 and he purchased a Cherokee 140.
Ralph had a practical reason for taking up flying once more in that two of his children now live in Winnipeg and Summerside, PEI. Both destinations are a long drive in a car. So, Ralph started flying across the country with his navigator, Ina.
On a trip to Summerside they got stuck in Moncton because of a persistent low ceiling and were forced to rent a car to complete the trip. That was when Ralph decided that he needed an IFR rating and he began studying for the written exam and taking IFR flight lessons with Dave O'Blenis at Smiths Falls.
Now with both the written and flight tests successfully completed Ralph will be flying IFR to visit his son and daughter wearing his "Flying Octagenarians" baseball cap.