Helen Richey shakes hands with Assistant Postmaster General W.W. Howes as she prepares to become the first woman to fly the U.S. Air Mail, December 31, 1934.
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The photo shows Helen Richey, and Assistant Postmaster General W.W. Howes as he wished her luck when the young lady took the controls of the Central Airlines plane.

Credit: Image donated by Corbis-Bettmann

On December 31, 1934, Helen Richey became the first woman to pilot a commercial airliner, flying from Washington D.C. to Detroit. Hired by the new Pennsylvania Central Airlines for publicity, Richey was harassed by male pilots and restricted to daytime, fair weather flying, so she quit in less than a year. Returning to racing and barnstorming, she set two world records for light places in 1936.

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