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November 2008 Newsletter

by John M. White |

Women In Early Aviation - "Helen Richey (1909 - 1947"
Helen Richey was an aviaton pioneer, particullarly for women in aviation. Born in McKeesport, PA Richey was a tomboy from the start, wearing boys pants and cutting her hair short as a young girl. At the age of 12 she ran away to join the circus until retrieved by her father and returned home. Her parents sent her of to college to get a degree but she quickly became bored with school and dropped out. At the age of 20 Helen Richey gained her pilot's license, and her father purchased an airplane for her. She earned her pilot's license at Bettis Airport in Western Pennsylvania, the first airport in Western PA. Two years later she came in third in the Amelia Earhart Trophy Race making her popular across the country. In 1932 or 1933 she and a fellow female pilot, Francis Marsalis, set an airborne endurance record of nearly ten days by utilizing mid air refueling! In 1934 she won the premier women's air race in the first National Air Meet for women in Dayton, Ohio. Fellow aviatrix Amelia Earhart said that Helen Richey was a natural pilot in an aircraft, and that Richey was "born to fly". Earhart claimed that Helen Richey was a better aviator than Earhart herself! In 1934 Richey became the first female commercial pilot flying for Central Airlines with her first flight New Year's Eve from Washington, DC to Detroit, MI. Central Airlines and Pennsylvania Airlines were battling for customers and market, and Central Airlines hired Richey more for the publicity than for her skills. In other words, it quickly became apparent that she was hired as a publicity stunt, and soon the all male pilot's union rejected her application for membership. Pressured by the CAB Central Airlines was discouraged from allowing Richey to fly in inclement weather. As a result she resigned after 10 months as a commercial pilot. Undaunted she continued her cockpit adventures by becoming a flight instructor, and in 1942 became part of Britain's Air Transport Auxxiliary shuttling aircraft from aircraft factories to military air fields around England. Her flights were anything but routine, and short of flying combat missions she test flew new aircraft models and ferried aircraft for repairs which was dangerous work. Afterwards she returned to the United States and joined the Women's Airforce Service Pilots doing the same type of flying she had in England. The WASP pilots ferried all kinds of aircraft across the US to various military air fields. As the war drew to a close many pilots returned and quickly took all of the flying jobs being given preference over women. On January 7th, 1947 Richey was found dead, apparently of suicide as a result of depression about not being able to find a flying job. By 1941 Richey had accumulated over 10,000 hours of flying time and had achieved the rank of Major in the WASPs by the end of the war. McKeesport has not forgotten their native female aviator where her life is celebrated at the McKeesport Heritage Center.
Great Poems "The Eagle and the Hawk"
Alone, yet never lonely, Serene, beyond mischance, The world was his, his only, When Lindbergh flew to France. — Aline Michaelis
What's New

The Loss of Reason

The recent appearance of the CEOs for the Big 3 automakers has displayed just how Politically Correct we have become in the United States. This insane logic stems from a lack of leadership, and a fear to speak up and confront idealoges who present in your face attacks based upon opinion, not reason. The latest case of this nonsense comes from GM and Ford closing their flight departments because they were criticized for flying to Washington, DC to plead for money on corporate jet aircraft. The Senators and Representatives embarrassed these CEOs into submission for using a business tool, and not one of them stood up and challenged them. Consider the fact that the GAO (US General Accounting Office) admits that the US Government owns over 1,400 aircraft, some of which it doesn't even know where they are or how they are being used! In addition, the cost of operating these aircraft is estimated to be between $ 700 million and $ 1.2 billion dollars! Isn't this a case of the pot calling the kettle black! I mean, where has common sense gone? Check out my blog about this at Where Have The Good Old Days Of Aviation Gone? for more. Business jets are called business jets for a reason: they are used for business! What part of this don't these congressional fools get? These aircraft were used for business, not some pleasure junket of the kind our Senators and Representatives take. The truth is the argument about the value of business aircraft has been settled for a long time now, and they have become even more useful with the changes to air travel on commercial airlines. Today they tell us to show up at the airport at least two hours before your flight departs so that you can go through the TSA lines, take off your shoes, subject yourself to examination by a stranger, all before you can even get to the gate. Has anyone been able to fly on an airliner from one point in the US to another without it taking all day? Well, business aircraft are truly time machines - they save time! As companies become more lean in order to compete in world markets it has become more important than ever to make efficient use of executive and middle management time, and on way to do that is to provide them with fast, safe and effecient travel on a business aircraft. I don't understand why these high powered executives cower like little children under the withering glare of Congress. I say stand up like Howard Hughes did years ago, and don't take this crap lying down! These are major companies who are asking for help in an economic crisis brought on by the very people they are asking to help them! For heavens sake someone stand up and be counted! Business aviation is a great tool and should be defended, not trashed! Where are our leaders?
Photo of the Month
Aviatrix Helen Richey Adventurer and Aviator Steve Fossett.
John M. White, Editor
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