Dedication Date: August 1, 2002
In 1934, this McKeesport native became the 1st woman to pilot a commercial airliner. Discriminated against because she was a woman, she resigned within a year and went on to become the 1st woman licensed instructor by the Civil Aeronautics Authority; and in WWII, the commandant of the American wing, British Air Transport Auxiliary, member of the Womens Airforce Service Pilots; and Major by war’s end.
Behind the Marker
“How do you feel?”
“Great. Wonderful. Tired, but wonderful.”
“Did you ever think of giving up?”
“Never. As long as our plane kept going.”
“How were you able to sleep up there?”
“If you’re weary enough you can sleep anywhere.”
“Now that you have the record, what are you going to do next?”
“Call our families, have a hot meal, and sleep for a week in a real bed.”
-Helen Richey, upon her completion, with co-pilot Frances Marsalis, of the longest flight by female pilots in aviation history, August 1932.
Helen Richey was the co-holder of the women’s aviation endurance record (1932) and two world records for light planes (1936), she was also the first woman to pilot a commercial airliner and a regularly scheduled airmail transport plane (both in 1934); and the first to train army pilots. A charter member of the Ninety-Nines – the pioneering organization of women flyers begun in 1929 – she was also Amelia Earhart’s co-pilot in the 1936 transatlantic Bendix Trophy race.
Source: Explore PA History