British Air Transport Auxiliary
Ann Wood Kelly (1918-2006)
Ann Wood-Kelly was born in Philadelphia, one of six children of Mary Colbert and Oliver G. Wood. 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, who, having failed to form an auxiliary of women flyers in the US was turning her sights to Great Britain, recruited her. Consequently, Ann Wood-Kelly became one of the twenty-four American women flyers to serve in the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA).
This "Flying Legion of the Air" recruited flyers from Britain, the Commonwealth, the US, and a dozen other countries to ferry warplanes from factories to the air bases of the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm. This important contribution to the war effort freed up British pilots, allowing them to focus on combat duty. From 1942 to 1945, Ann Wood-Kelly ferried more than 900 planes of 75 different types, mostly the renowned Spitfires, to destinations in England and France. She executed these numerous missions with only a single accident from which she escaped uninjured (of the 700 men and women engaged in the ATA effort, 173 lost their lives, including 14 women).
In recognition of this war-time service to the United Kingdom, Ann Wood-Kelly was awarded the King's Medal by King George IV; presented to her in Washington D.C. by the British Ambassador.
After the war, in 1946, she served as the First Assistant to America's first Civil Air Attaché, based at the US Embassy in London.
At the same time that her marriage began to falter, Northeast Airlines invited Ann Wood to return to Boston and resume her former position as Public Relations Director. She remained with this airline for twelve years, successively assuming the roles of Special Assistant to the President, and later to the Chairman of the Board. Her son Christopher Wood-Kelly, born in London, now lives in Watertown, MA.
After Northeast Airlines came Pan American. In 1972, she was named Staff Vice President for International Airport Charges.
As Pan Am was failing, she returned to Boston as Assistant to the President of Air New England. That too failed in 1980.
Today being June 2002, she continues to fly her shared Piper Arrow from Beverly airport, MA, and remains current.
Her mother's early encouragement has led to a full life of aviation wonders, fun, and success with the high point being the ATA, 1942 to 1945.
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