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American Women Who Flew For the ATA


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Ann Wood-Kelly.jpg


Ann Wood-Kelly (31 March 1918 – 14 May 2006) was an American aviator who flew with the British Air Transport Auxiliary in WWII.


Ann Wood-Kelly was born in Philadelphia in 1918. She was educated in Philadelphia, Belgium, and at D'Youville College in Buffalo, N.Y. With the encouragement of her mother, she took up flying and attended ground school through the federal government's Civilian Pilot's Training Program. Initially rejected at the all-male Bowdoin College flight training program, she was accepted when the twelve-person program failed to locate a twelfth male applicant. In a short time she became a flight instructor herself in the Bowdoin Program.


Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the famous aviatrix Jacqueline Cochran, having failed to form an auxiliary of women flyers in the US, was turning her sights to Great Britain. In 1942 Jacqueline Cochran recruited Ann Wood-Kelly who became one of the twenty-four American women flyers to serve in the British Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA).

During her time as a ferry pilot with the ATA she flew more than 900 aircraft of 75 different types ranging from the Supermarine Spitfire fighter to the four-engine Avro Lancaster heavy bomber. (of the 700 men and women engaged in the ATA effort, 173 lost their lives, including 14 women).


In 1946, she was awarded the King’s Medal for Courage in the Cause of Freedom for her services to the United Kingdom.


After the war she became an assistant to the United States Air attache in London before she returned to the United States. She became a public relations manager for Northeast Airlines, and later worked for Pan American Airways, becoming the first female vice-president with Pan Am.



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An awesome account of one of the many unheralded heroes. Especially poignant for me as I live close to DYouville College and grew up near the school. My parents are still living nearby

Thanks for educating me with some great local history


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The uniform in the picture is very interesting especially the USA tab on the left sleeve. With only 24 American women having served with the ATA, I wonder if any of these uniforms or other ATA items still exist. It looks like the Texas Women's University has Ann's log books, letters, and an oral video of her experiences with the ATA but does not mention any uniforms, medals, or other items.



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I found another one of the 24 American women. This is a long post but I could not shorten it any more. Her life was an amazing one that should not be abbreviated.


Hazel Raines.jpg


Hazel Jane Raines (April 21, 1916 – September 4, 1956)


Receiving her flight instructor's rating in 1941, Raines became an instructor with the CPTP program in Georgia and Florida in 1942. Besides being an instructor, Raines held a commercial pilot's license, had a documented 1,300 hours of flying time, and was a member of the Ninety-Nines, the Macon Aero Club and the National Aeronautical Association.



Even though Raines modestly joked about being "a two-bit flight instructor" for the CPTP, Cochran was sufficiently impressed with her credentials in 1942 to schedule an interview in New York, that resulted in Raines being accepted into the Ferry Pool Service. Training commenced at White Waltham Airfield, during which each pilot was each given a set of Ferry Pilots’ Notes on index cards, instructions on how to fly any plane they were assigned to, whether or not they had prior experience or knowledge of any particular plane. Raines and the 24 other female American flyers working for the Ferry Pool Service during that period established themselves in aviation history as the first women from the United States to fly military aircraft, and they did it in a theater of war. To fly undetected by enemy radar, they used no navigational instruments, made no radio contact while flying, and had no ammunition for defense if the enemy spotted them.


During her service with the ATA, Raines flew numerous types of British escorts, including the Hurricane, the Spitfire, and the de Havilland Tiger Moth. She survived a March 2, 1943 crash landing at Collingbourne, Kingston when her Spitfire's engine malfunctioned, landing atop an English cottage. Although the cottage was severely damaged, there were no casualties. The Spitfire lost its wings, Raines managed to pull herself out of the plane and followed the ATA instructions on securing the aircraft, commanding "London – guard that plane!", before being transported to a medical facility. Her head and eye injuries were severe enough for a mandatory medical leave from flying. She resumed her duties in June, flying Airspeed Oxford and Fairchild 24 planes, but was unable to wear a helmet due to ongoing issues with her injuries. Raines left the ATA with the rank of Captain, and returned to the United States in August.


Prior to her return to the United States, Raines and some of the other women pilots had received a letter from Cochran crediting them with laying the groundwork for the creation of the WASPs. In November, Raines joined the WASPs and was made squadron commander at Avenger Field, completing her training ahead of schedule after learning to fly the B-26 Marauder. Her next duty stations were as squadron commander at Pecos Army Air Field in Texas, and Kingman Army Airfield in Arizona.


Raines found herself at loose ends after the WASP deactivation, despite having logged 6,400 flying hours in her career. She was unemployed with no health care or retirements benefits to sustain her, and her heart condition was deteriorating. She spent a year teaching at the Air Ministry of Brazil in Sao Paulo, where she used the Link Trainer.


When President Truman signed the Women’s Armed Service Integration Act of 1948, women were accepted as part of the US military, albeit limited to 2% of the forces. In 1949 Raines was commissioned in the Women in the Air Force (WAFS) as a 2nd lieutenant with the reserves unit at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. Through determination and nonstop efforts to be recognized, Raines was finally returned to active status in 1950 and stationed at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama.


Raines served in administrative capacities before being transferred to London, from where she was dispatched to several European locations. Health issues began to surface in 1956, and she was hospitalized in Wiesbaden and London. She died in London on September 4, and her remains were shipped back to Georgia for burial in Riverside Cemetery.


Raines was inducted into the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame in 1989 as "Georgia's First Lady in Flight", and into the Georgia Women of Achievement in 1995.



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Garth Thompson

This is a very worthy post. I'm moving it to the Americans in Foreign Service section where I think it will have more visibility and staying power.

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This is a very worthy post. I'm moving it to the Americans in Foreign Service section where I think it will have more visibility and staying power.



Thanks! ...Kat

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Here is the 3rd one I found. She is pictured above in a hurricane



Helen Richey (1909–1947) was a pioneering female aviator and the first woman to be hired as a pilot by a commercial airline in the U.S.


Richey was born in McKeesport, Pennsylvania. She learned how to fly a plane at age 20. Her father bought her a plane when she obtained her pilot's license.


In 1933 Richey partnered with another female pilot, Frances Marsalis, to set an endurance record by staying airborne for nearly 10 days, with midair refueling. In 1934 Richey won the premier air race at the first National Air Meet for women in Dayton, Ohio. Also in 1934, Central Airlines, a Greensburg, Pennsylvania–based carrier that eventually became part of United Airlines, hired Richey as a pilot; she made her first regular civil flight with them on December 31, taking a Ford Trimotor on the Washington to Detroit route. She eventually was forced to step down from the cockpit by the all-male pilot union.


In May 1936, Helen Richey, flying a light plane, set an international altitude record for aircraft weighing under 200 kilograms (440 lb). She reached 18,448 feet during a flight from Congressional Airport to Endless Caverns Airport in New Market, Virginia.


After leaving Central Airlines, Richey continued to perform at air shows. In 1936, she teamed with Amelia Earhart in a transcontinental air race, the Bendix Trophy Race. Richey and Earhart came in fifth, beating some all-male teams.


Later, Richey flew with the British Air Transport Auxiliary during WWII.


In addition to being the first female commercial airline pilot, Richey also was the first woman sworn in to pilot air mail and one of the first female flight instructors.


Richey died in her apartment in NY City on 7 January 1947, apparently from a pill overdose. Her death was ruled a suicide..

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One American woman lost her life while flying for the ATA. The following was written by two of her nieces. I love the part where she received flying lessons in return for parachute jumps. She really wanted to fly!




Mary Webb Nicholson was born on July 12, 1905 in Greensboro, North Carolina. Her passion for flying began when she took her first plane ride in 1927 at the Tri City Airport in North Carolina. However, it wasn't until 1928 that she had the opportunity to learn to fly. As she later told aviation historian Glenn Buffington, "I had no money to begin my flying lessons in '28, and when the Raven Rock Flying Service in Portsmouth, Ohio offered to give me free instructions in return for parachute jumps to advertise the school, I accepted the proposition and made three jumps during the six months I was there. I also did the office work for them."

In 1929, she received her private pilot's certificate with 26 hours of flying time, becoming the first woman licensed pilot in North Carolina. Shortly thereafter, Mary also became the first woman in North Carolina to receive both her commercial and transport licenses. She took advantage of every possible opportunity to fly, including barnstorming and flying in air shows throughout the south. Mary set the light plane altitude record for North Carolina in 1931, when she flew a Curtiss-Wright Junior, complete with 45 horsepower motor, to 15,200 feet out of the Miller Municipal Airport in Winston-Salem.

Mary became a charter member of the 99's when the organization was formed in 1929. Amelia Earhart appointed Mary to serve as Governor of the Southeastern Section in 1932, which Mary continued to do for several years. In 1937, Mary moved to New York City to be the personal secretary to Jacqueline Cochran.


Mary was instrumental in helping Jacqueline Cochran set up a group of American women pilots to ferry airplanes for the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) in England during World War II. She herself was thrilled to join the last group of women pilots who went over to participate in the war effort. After initial flight training in Canada, Mary traveled by barge with several other women pilots to England. She was stationed at Maidenhead, in Berkshire, England.


In May of 1943, shortly after being promoted to Second Officer, Mary was ferrying a Miles Master when, due to mechanical difficulties, the propeller flew off her plane over Worcestershire County. In poor weather conditions, she made an emergency landing in a farm field. Unable to avoid hitting a farm building, Mary's plane crashed and burst into flames. A nearby farmer attempted, unsuccessfully, to rescue her. Mary was the only American woman in the ATA to lose her life in the war.



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