Researching Wiley Post
I’m indulging one of my passions from my misspent childhood: binging on #biographies of #aviation and automotive pioneers and #dare-devils. There are so many interesting and quirky men—and women—from this age that it’s captivating reading.
Right now, I’m brushing up on my knowledge of Wiley Post, the record-breaking (cliche alert) “one-eyed pilot from Oklahoma.” He and his navigator, Aussie Harold Gatty, were the first to pair to fly a single engine plane around the world. Their 8-day trip besting the 21-day record set by the Graf Zeppelin in 1929 and crushing the 175-days required by the four US Army airmen who first completed this feat.
Post and Gatty’s historic flight ended safely–barely–almost 90 years ago, on July 1, 1931 when they landed at Roosevelt Field in Long Island.
It was a real zoo, by all accounts, when they landed. People climbed over the airport’s fences and the police couldn’t hold them back. Post stopped short of the hanger, cutting the engine, for fear that the propeller would chop someone to pieces.
Fortunately, it didn’t. But he and Gatty had a tough time getting from the plane, away from the crush of the crowd—literally—into the safety of the hanger.
One detail that I found interesting was that the two men wore suits rather than leather flying jacket so popular in that day. Still, I don’t think you could say there were ready fo a job interview. They’d been wearing the same suits for eight days, and their clothes were rumpled and grease-stained.
So, weird, but classy.
They made their flight in the hot-rod plane of the day, the Lockheed Vega. This model set many speed records and was also used by Amelia Earhart.
Post’s plane was named the “Winne Mae.”
I think I’m going to do some reading on the history of this plane, too. These things were the engineering marvels of their day, and the people who designed and built them were amazing in their own right.
My current read is about the rivalry between Post and another, more dashing Hollywood stunt pilot by the name of James “Jimmie” Mattern. More on him, soon.