Irene McConihay Leahy
March 2, 1918 March 29, 2010
Class: 44-W-6
Training Location: Avenger Field (Sweetwater, Tex.)
Assigned Bases: Shaw Army Air Base (Sumpter, S.C.)
Planes flown: PT-17 and BT-13

Irene McConihay Leahy was born on March 2, 1918 in Charleston, West Virginia to John and Irene McConihay. She learned to fly in a seaplane on the Kanawha River.  Because the school was next to a bridge, Irene learned to fly under the bridge, both for landings and take offs.  After earning her private pilot’s license, she kept flying and applied for the WASP’ flying training program.

She received notification that she must have a personal interview with an official of the WASP organization before she could be accepted into the program.    After driving all night for an 8am appointment, Irene and 2 other female pilots were interviewed at Lockbourne AFB in Ohio.  (She reported ‘drinking carrot juice’ all night, so that they would all pass the eye test.)  After completing all the other prerequisites for admission, they were all  accepted into the training program.

Once she was notified that she had been accepted, Irene paid her way to Avenger Field, Sweetwater, Texas, where she raised her right hand, took the military oath and, along with 135 other young women pilots, became a trainee in WASP class 44-W-6.  Over the next seven months, he trained in  PT-17’s, BT-13’s, and the AT-6 North American “Texan”, at the same time taking ground school courses,  which included learning to ‘fly’ the Link trainer.    On August 4, 1944, she and 71 other young women pilots graduated and received their silver WASP wings.

Irene’s Army Air Force orders sent her to Shaw AFB, Sumter, South Carolina to the 2142nd AFBU (Air Force Base Unit).  Shaw AFB was a basic (BT-13) modification center, where the WASP flew as engineering test pilots, ferry pilots and as instrument instructors.

After the WASP were disbanded in December of 1944, Irene never flew as a pilot again.  She began a career in secretarial and administrative work that she continued until her retirement.

In 1947 she met and married David Leahy, the love of her life. She dedicated 30 years as an Executive Secretary with the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada, in Washington D.C.

Texas Women’s University in Denton, Texas, WASP Collection
WASP Final Flight


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