"BIOGRAPHY: Paul E. Richter,
Jr., Aviation Pioneer, Co-Founder, TWA
Copyright 2005, by Susan Holden Walsh
A true pioneer during the "Golden Age" of flying,
Paul E. Richter played a decisive role in creating and building
all aspects of commercial aviation and military air transport.
From stunt pilot with Hollywood's famous Thirteen Black Cats
to flight instructor to TWA co-founder and NATS Chief of Staff,
Operations during World War II, Richter soared high in his
53 short years.
Born: January 20, 1896, Paul Ernest Richter,
Jr., Denver, Colorado, to Margaret and Paul E. Richter, Sr.
Died: May 15, 1949, Berkeley, California
Childhood: Early years through high school
in Denver, Colorado, Graduated Manual (Training) High in 1913,
and subsequently moved to and managed the family ranch in
Wiggins (Morgan County), Colorado.
College: Colorado State College of Agriculture
and Mechanical Arts (now Colorado State University), 1914-15
Family: Married Daisy Cooke Richter, 1926,
d. 1998, son, Paul E. Richter, b. 1930, d. 1998, daughter,
Ruth Richter Holden, b. 1934
Pre-flying Career: In the early 1920's,
tried his hand at ranching during the start of the "Dust
Bowl," spent time as a "cub" reporter for the
Denver Post, and worked in his father's advertising business,
but heard the call of flying and saw a future in aviation.
25-year Aviation Career: Earned Pilot's
License #309 and Air Transport License #501. Began as Pilot
and Flight Instructor, Burdett Field, Los Angeles, CA, 1925-26.
One of first Air Sheriffs in the world when sworn in by LA
County Sheriff Dept., 1926. Air Race Ace and Winner as well
as double altitude record holder, 1925-29. Charter Member,
"Thirteen Black Cats" Hollywood stunt flying group,
Aircraft Flown by Richter Included: Jenny
(JN4D, JHN), Thomas-Morse, OX-5 Eaglerock, OX-5 Standard,
J-5 Eaglerock, OX Thunderbird, J4 and J5 Fokker Universal,
Wasp Fokker Universal, Kinner Fleet, Hornet Fokker F-VII,
Wasp Fokker F-10 Tri-motor, Daris, Monocoach, Fokker F-10-A,
Northrup Alpha, Stearman J5, Ford 4 & 5AT, Fokker F-14,
Lockheed Vega, Fleetster (Hornet), Northrup Alpha (Wasp),
Lockheed Orion, Douglas DC-1, Northrup Gamma (Cyclone F-3),
Douglas DC-2 (Cyclone F-3), DC-3, DC-4, L-12A, Stratoliner,
Boeing 307, Constellation, all multi-engine military air transport
planes and all commercial planes thru 1949.
Aero Corporation of California: Co-Founder
with Jack Frye and Walter
Hamilton, Aero Corporation of California (managed nationally
certified flight schools, nationally accredited maintenance
and repair facility, aeronautical design, sight-seeing flights,
cross-country charter services), 1926. Vice President and
General Manager of Aero Corporation and General Manager of
Standard Flying School, 1926-30.
Standard Airlines/TWA: Co-Founder with Jack
Frye of Standard Airlines, which became TWA (Standard Airlines
merged with Western Air Express in 1930 and later Transcontinental
Air Transport to become Transcontinental & Western Air
in 1930), 1927. Vice President, General Manager and Pilot,
Standard Airlines, 1928-30.
Hawaiian Airways Ltd.: Founding Director,
TWA: Transcontinental & Western Air:
TWA Western Regional Operations Manager, 1931-34. TWA Vice
President of Operations and Director, 1934-38. TWA Executive
Vice President and Director, 1938-43. Richter and Jack Frye
regain control of TWA stock, 1939. Took temporary leave from
TWA to become Chief of Staff for Operations, US Naval Air
Transport, 1942-45. Returned as TWA Executive Vice President,
1945-47. Resigned from TWA in 1947 (three months after Jack
Frye left) in dispute with then controlling stockholder, Howard
T.A.C.A.: Became Chairman and President
of T.A.C.A. Airways of Central and South America, 1947-49.
Army: Joined the Army in 1918 during World
War I as a Private, 37th Field Artillery, Camp Lewis, WA.
Was literally on the dock waiting to transfer into the air
corps when war ended. Graduated Field Artillery Officers Training
School at Camp Zachary, KY, 1919. Commissioned Second Lieutenant,
US Army Field Artillery Reserve, 1919-34.
Naval Air Transport Service: Reported to
Active Duty during WWII, as Lieutenant Commander and Assistant
Chief of Staff, Naval Air Transport Service, 1942. Promoted
to Captain and Chief of Staff of Operations, Naval Air Transport
Service, 1944. Head of the U.S. delegation and President of
the International Civil Aviation Conference, Chicago, Nov-Dec.
1944; received accommodation from Secretary of the Navy James
Forrestal and Adolf A.Berle, Jr. Dept. of State for his conference
work. Released from active duty, November 1945. Honored with
the Legion of Merit, 1946 for his instrumental role in NATS.
Served on active duty, March 1948, to establish Military Air
Transport through the combining of the Naval Air Transport
Service and Air Transport Command; Considered to be a Founder
of MATS by Major General Laurence Kuter – Commander
Military Medals: Legion of Merit and Letter
of Commendation for work with NATS; Naval Reserve Medal, American
Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal.
Aviation and Business Memberships and Affiliations:
Quiet Birdmen (inducted 1927); Co-founder and later president,
Conquistadores del Cielo; Associate Fellow, Institute of Aeronautical
Sciences; Pacific Aviation Club; Reserve Officers Association;
American Legion – Aviation Post; The Wings Club, Inc.;
Silver Wings; Associate member, Alpha Eta Rho international
aviation fraternity; Professional Pilots Association; National
Aeronautical (Aviation) Association; N.A.P.A.; LA Chamber
of Commerce – Aviation Committee; VP/Director of Aviation,
KC Chamber of Commerce; VP/Director, New Mexico Airport Corporation;
Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce; Companion of the Military
Order of the World Wars; Biographical Encyclopedia of the
World - under Business Leaders of America, 1939 -, Who's Who
in American Aviation, 1939 -, Who's Who in the Western Hemisphere,
1942 -, Who's Who in Transportation & Communication, 1942
-, Who's Who in Commerce & Industry; Kansas City Club;
Kansas City Country Club; Indian Hills Country Club, Poor's
Register-Top Ranking American Business People, 1948-1949,
Noted in "A Chronicle of the Aviation Industry of America,"
Interests, Hobbies, Recreation: Photography,
Flying, Fishing, Hunting, Swimming, Horseback Riding, Golf."
Pilot Richter signed the Davis-Monthan Airfield Register
13 times between 12/21/27 and 10/29/30. His thirteen landings at the Airfield include two different makes of aircraft as follows:
The excellent photograph below from 1929 shows most of the
key players of the short-lived Standard
Air Lines, including our pilot Paul Richter (far right
in the spiffy hat).
Left to right, President of Standard Air Lines Jack
Frye, Pilot William Kingsley, Chief Pilot Hap
Russell, Vice President Operations Walter Hamilton
(signed the Register twice as a passenger), Pilot Johnnie
Martin, Pilot Donald Cornell (did not sign the Register),
Kelsey and Vice President & General Manager Paul
Richter, Jr. Officers Richter and Frye were also pilots
of the line. The airplane is a Fokker trimotor, probably
the one the company called
"The Arizonan". Note the automobile at rear (anybody
know the make/model?) with fire extinguisher and observer.
On the weekend of January 28-29, 2006, your Webmaster visited
with Ruth Richter Holden in southern California. This image
was taken at her hangar with her prized Lockheed NC18137.
This Lockheed was used by TWA for transport, flown by Paul
Richter. As a young girl, Ruth remembers flying in the rear
starboard seat of this aircraft, with her dad in the cockpit.
NC18137 is a model12A, Serial Number 1229, manufactured
in 1937. It is powered by two Pratt & Whitney model
R-985 series engines.
During our visit, I was able to scan for
this site some additional items of interest. They include
images, documents and news clippings. Some of them that are
relevant to Paul Richter and his flight and business ventures
EARLY ALTITUDE RECORD SETTER
The headline for the news image below taken
November 7, 1926 in front of a big Fokker trimotor, reads, “Attains
Altitude of 18,000
Feet” “This is Paul E. Richter, being presented
with silver cup, perpetual trophy, by Mrs Jacques Vinmont,
for attaining an altitude of 18,000 feet at the air meet
held recently at Clover Field, Santa Monica, Calif. An Eagle
Rock plane, with Hisso motor, was used by Richter in his
He was about 30 years old at the time of this
AERO CORPORATION OF CALIFORNIA
Below is the facade of the Aero Corporation of California
offices, ca. 1929. From comparisons with other photos, the
posture of the person standing in the archway on the left
might be that of Jack Frye.
And below is a view of the Aero Corporation of California
flight line looking at us through one of the
veranda arches (probably the second or third one from the left?).
This image was probably taken some time after the one
above, because of the presence of excavated earth near the
fence posts and the installation of the gate. Note one of
the Alexander Eaglerocks, and what looks like a firehose
festooned in the foreground. Note landing aircraft, looking as if it's in a left slip. On the
bottom of the image you can see the shadow from the tile roof and water
damage to the photo paper.
ALEXANDER EAGLEROCK DISTRIBUTORSHIP
This is an example of how merging information from the Davis-Monthan
Airfield Register and database with available artifacts
leads to some interesting detective work. Take this letter,
written aloft by Paul Richter to his parents on February
10, 1929, somewhere between Indio and Blythe, CA.
Information in his letter correlates
well with Richter's activity at the Tucson Airfield. The
letter mentions his itinerary to Denver to pick up an Alexander
Eaglerock aircraft for transport back to the Aero Corporation
distributorship in Los Angeles. He was to, "...fly a whirlwind
job back via El Paso leaving Colo Spgs Thursday morning and
El Paso Friday morning with Spence the photographer to shoot
pictures all the way across from El paso to L.A....."
In the Register, on (Sunday)
February 17, 1929 just after noon, we find him landing at
Tucson with Alexander Eaglerock NC6376 ( C/N 748, A-1 model,
J-5 engine). His photographer, Robert Spence, mentioned in
the letter, is his passenger this day. Undoubtedly this is
the westbound ferry flight, albeit running a day or so behind,
for this brand new airplane. Hopefully the air was smooth,
clear and crisp for their photographic endeavor.
Also, the airliner he was flying in while writing his letter,
Fokker F-VI NC7888 is the trimotor "Texan" of
Standard Airlines. The "Texan" landed at Tucson
four times during January 1929, each time flown by line pilot Hap
seven weeks after Richter's letter writing flight, NC7888
crashed in fog near Beaumont, CA (on 3/30/29), killing
3 passengers and the pilot. It is clear from the Davis-Monthan
Register that the pilot was not Russell on March 30, as
he landed at Tucson at least nine more times after March,
and well into June 1930.
STANDARD AIR LINES
A week before his "Texan" flight, the following letter
was sent to Standard Air Lines via pilot Harold
Kelsey. This copy is hard to read, but it welcomes and
pledges support for the new Standard Air Lines routing through
LONG, FAST FRIENDS
None of what I have read or heard of Paul Richter mentions
anything but warmth and appreciation for his comradeship
and humanity. For example, this quote from the web by a past
|"Paul Richter: A gentleman first, professional
always and one of the kindest and cultivated men I have
ever known. Believe initially Navy trained in the twenties.
.... Died say 1952 [1949, actually] of a heart attack.
A wonderful boss and a human being always."
And one of the briefest, most profound, kindest and sincere tokens
of gratitude I have ever read follows in a short letter written
to him by his friend and business partner, Jack
the occasion of their 20th anniversary with TWA.
And, about a year later, Richter's decision to leave
TWA elicited this exchange between Richter and executive
UPLOADED: 6/27/05 REVISED: 01/03/06, 02/07/06, 02/10/06,
02/14/06, 01/17/08, 11/28/08