Ed. Note 7/11/2008: I’ve just noticed that the links to the many images previously posted, from www.wileypost.com, no longer work. The organization’s website is now here, but unfortunately the diversity of photos is not presently there. I’ve supplied alternative images where I’ve found them and will try to find more in the future. Also, see Bob Kemper’s Taxi Strip website.
Born near Grand Saline in Van Zandt County, Texas, on November 22, 1898, reared in south central Oklahoma after the age of 5, died in Point Barrow, Alaska, on August 15, 1935, buried in Memorial Park (on Broadway Extension south of Edmond) on August 23, 1935, many places can rightly claim to be the home of Wiley Hardeman Post, an Oklahoma aviation pioneer and hero. But, I’m quite certain that we can lay fair claim to calling him one of our own.
Until July 1, 1931, the “speed record” for circumventing the globe was held by the Graf Zeppelin (1929 – 21 days). But, on June 23, 1931, he and his Australian navigator, Harold Gatty, left Roosevelt Field, Long Island, NY, in Wiley’s Lockheed Vega named the “Winnie Mae” (for the oringal owner’s – F.C. Hall’s – daughter), determined to break that record. Traveling west to east, they made 14 stops along the way, and returned to Roosevelt Field on July 1, 1931, setting a new record of 8 days, 15 hours, and 41 minutes. The NYC Ticker Tape Parade is said to have rivaled Lindbergh’s. A memoir by Wiley and Gatty, called, “Around the Word In 8 Days”, with an introduction by Will Rogers, chronicled their journey.
But, some scoffed at the accomplishment because of his rural (south central Oklahoma) upbringing and lack of educational accomplishments (he dropped out of school in the 8th grade).
So, he decided to take the trip again, this time alone, without a navigator but with some new equipment. On July 22, 1933, 50,000 people greeted him on his return to Brooklyn’s Floyd Bennett Field, having left only 7 days, 19 hours, earlier – breaking his previous record by 21 hours, and a 2nd Ticker Tape Parade followed in New York City.
What we take for granted today was electric to those who lived in that time. For example, see how Wiley Post was welcomed in Cleveland, of all places!
|Wiley Post received the Distinguished Flying Cross (1932), the Gold Medal of Belgium (1934), and the International Harmon Trophy (1934). He helped designed the 1st high-altitude pressure suit and is credited with discovering the Jet Stream. He was enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1969. In 1979, the United States Postal Service honored him with two airmail stamps. About him, Amelia Earhart said, “Wiley Post was the most courageous pilot in the history of aviation,” Astronaut Gen. Thomas Stafford said,”Every time I donned a modern space suit, I thought of Wiley Post,” and Howard Hughes said, of Post’s latter flight, “the most remarkable flight in history.”|
At the 1934 State Fair in Oklahoma City, police lines held the crowd back from welcoming their international hero (I’m looking for the original large image — for now, this small one gives the idea):
Stepping back a bit in time, Post did much of his work on the Winnie Mae in the hangars of Braniff Airways, then headquartered in Oklahoma City at the Curtiss-Wright Field (in 1941 renamed as the “Wiley Post Airport”), then located on the east side of Lake Hefner). From http://www.airfields-freeman.com/OK/Airfields_OK_C.htm:
Curtiss-Wright was also the original base for Braniff Airways (according to Kristopher Crook). “Braniff was based at Curtiss-Wright throughout the 1930’s, maintaining operations at the field even after the opening of the Municipal Air Terminal (now Will Rogers World Airport) in 1932.”
In 1928, the Curtiss-Wright Corp., invested $115,000 for an airport on the north side of Oklahoma City. The 160 acre airport was heralded as “Oklahoma City’s model airport,” complete with a beautiful art-deco hangar and a fleet of Curtiss-Wright airplanes. Oklahoma’s, world famous aviator Wiley Post, used the hangar extensively, from 1929 to 1934 to design and modify airplanes he used on several intercontinental and two around the-world flights. As one of the most distinguished pioneers in aviation history, his achievements comprised some of the greatest accomplishments in aviation. * * * From 1932 to 1937 the hangar was home to Braniff Airlines.
The original Curtiss-Wright / Wiley Post Field is shown below (click the image for a larger view):
According to www.airfields-freeman.com:
According to Jeff Wilkinson, Wiley Post Airport was closed in 1955. “I can imagine that what led to the closure was the nearby Tulakes Airport, built in 1942 as an auxiliary to the Army’s Will Rogers Field located at the Oklahoma City Municipal Airport [Tulakes Airport eventually became known as the current Wiley Post Airport].
The story doesn’t stop there. Preservationists persuaded Jackie Cooper (who purchased the old field) to dismantle and save it for future use. Now becomming the Wiley Post Heritage of Flight Center, at Wiley Post Airport, 7101 Millionaire Drive, Bethany, the original hangar is being restored:
The Wiley Post Heritage of Flight Center with the Curtiss-Wright Wiley Post Hangar, will become an active aviation event center for promoting General Aviation and to further the Legacy of Wiley Post.
The Hangar will host type-shows, fly-ins, conventions, exhibitions and trade shows. The completed Hangar is the first phase in the development of an aviation adventure which will include several aviation and transportation museums all under one roof; a 1920’s -30’s style air terminal, flying airplanes, fly-in hotel, dinning, shopping and an adjacent golf course.
See its developing website, http://www.wileyposthangar.com/ for a much more information about the new Wiley Post Heritage of Flight Center … I’m hoping that the history, links and images that were at the former www.wileypost.com will be up and running very soon. Drawing of the proposed new facility are shown below:
An interesting tidbit: Beverly Osborne’s Oklahoma City based Chicken In The Rough restaurants and franchise was one of Wiley Post’s sponsors, and a new Chicken In The Rough diner will be in the new facility! But, that’s another story! This one’s about an Oklahoma City hero, Wiley Hardeman Post.
After the fatal crash near Point Barrow, Alaska, in which both Wiley Post and Will Rogers died, a funeral service was held for Wiley Post at the First Baptist Church, Oklahoma City, the audience said to be the largest in attendance for any funeral in Oklahoma City. OHS’s Chronicles of Oklahoma, http://digital.library.okstate.edu/chronicles/v013/v013p376.html, reports:
“Who are these that fly as a cloud?” was the appropriate Scriptural text chosen by the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Oklahoma City in pronouncing the Post funeral oration. Posterity, and loyal Oklahomans everywhere who honor his memory may well reply: ‘These are they whose flights bear them into the unknown and to untried heights, ever doing with all their God-given might, even as Wiley Post, the things they want to do, to advance the boundaries of knowledge and the well being of humanity’.”
Wiley Post is buried in the Memorial Park Cemetery, immediately east of the Broadway Extension, just south of Memorial Road.
You might want to visit this Oklahoma City Hero there sometime, and give him a tip of the hat, if you have a chance. It was my privilege to do that very thing this afternoon. Also, see Wiley Post’s Memorial.