W.67 First Officer  Helen Richey 
 flag usa  b. 21 Nov 1909, McKeesport, PA 25 Mar-42 to 10 Jan-43 


helen richey 1934 



helen richey 1940 



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 ata helen richey 1932  

Learnt to fly in 1930 after her father, Dr. J B Richey, bought her an aeroplane.

Then, amongst other things,

- she and co-pilot Frances Marsalis stayed airborne for 10 days in 1932, to set the women's' flight endurance record;

ata helen richey outdoor girl 

The plane was called, slightly unfortunately perhaps, a 'Thrush'

- she won the premier air race at the first National Air Meet for Women, in 1934;

- she was the first woman pilot to be licensed to fly airmail.

- the world's first female commercial airline pilot, (for Central Airlines, for 8 months in 1934),  "but she was refused entry into the all-male pilots’ union. Central Airlines cut back on her flying assignments, preferring to use her for public appearances. In frustration, she resigned."

- In 1936, she and Amelia Earhart came fifth in the Bendix transcontinental air race, and 

- she set an altitude record of 18,000 ft for light aircraft in 1936.

prev exp: 1,800 hrs

Address in 1942: 2008 Jenny Lind St, McKeesport, PA

 Postings: 15FPP, 1FPP

ata helen richey 1942 San Franciso Examiner, Aug 1942

4 accidents, 3 her fault:

- 21 Jun-42: Hurricane, stalled, damaged wingtip (pilot held responsible);

- 21 Jul-42: Spitfire, overshot and hit "various objects" (pilot held responsible);

- 14 Dec-42: Master II forced landing (pilot not responsible);

- 3 Jan-43: Wellington, failed to control takeoff swing, wingtip broken off (pilot held responsible)

"A well disciplined officer and a keen and willing worker. She is handicapped somewhat by her slight stature [she was 5ft 4in] but otherwise she has the makings of a most useful ferry pilot."

ata helen harrison helen richey 1943

"After a tiring day, the pilots find a well-cooked meal awaiting them in the Officers' Mess at the local airport. Helen Richey discusses English versus American cooking with her fellow-pilots" [although Helen Harrison doesn't seem that impressed] - Illustrated London News, March 1943

Nevertheless, after her third 'at-fault' accident, her contract was terminated by the ATA (she said later she left because her mother was ill.)

 ata helen richey 1944     ata helen richey WASP https://twudigital.contentdm.oclc.org

Helen as a WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) in 1944 (Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph)

After WWII, she was basically out of a job, and the large supply of ex-war male pilots meant that she saw no prospect of continuing with her life's passion, flying. She fell into depression.

d. 7 Jan 1947 - apparent suicide due to barbiturate overdose, at her apartment in New York

ata helen richey grave 

buried Versailles Cemetery, McKeesport

There is a permanent exhibition commemorating her life at the McKeesport History & Heritage Center:


and also a book "Propeller Annie: The story of Helen Richey, the real first lady of the airlines" (Glenn Kerfoot, 1998)


 Download ATA Pilot Personal Record (.zip file):download grey


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