Wiley Post

Wiley Post

American pilot who made the first flight around the globe in June-July 1931
Date of Birth: 22.11.1899
Country: USA

  1. Biography of Wiley Post
  2. Early Life and Career
  3. Aviation Achievements
  4. Later Years and Contributions

Biography of Wiley Post

Wiley Post, an American aviator, completed the first solo flight around the world in June-July 1931. He was also known for his work in high-altitude flight, developing some of the first pressure suits. Post's aircraft, a Lockheed Vega named 'Winnie Mae,' as well as his high-altitude suit, are on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center. Post tragically died on August 15, 1935, in a crash during takeoff.

Wiley Post

Early Life and Career

Wiley Post was born on November 22, 1898, in Van Zandt County, Texas, USA. He grew up in a farming family and later moved to Oklahoma when he was five years old. At the age of 26, Post began his aviation career working as a parachute jumper for an air circus. In 1926, he lost his left eye in an accident during a performance, but with the insurance money, he was able to buy his first airplane.

Wiley Post

Aviation Achievements

Shortly after the accident, Post became a personal pilot for oil magnates P. Brouseau and F.S. Hall. In 1930, Hall purchased one of the most famous and advanced aircraft of its time, a single-engine 'Lockheed Vega,' and named it 'Winnie Mae' after his daughter. Post used this aircraft to win the National Air Derby, completing the Los Angeles to Chicago race in 9 hours, 8 minutes, and 2 seconds. This victory brought him recognition as a skilled pilot.

Wiley Post

Like many aviators of his time, Post dreamed of breaking the around-the-world flight record set by a dirigible pilot at 21 days. He accomplished this feat with navigator Harold Gatty, flying 15,474 miles from New York to Berlin, Moscow, Irkutsk, Khabarovsk, Nome, Cleveland, and back to New York in 8 days, 15 hours, and 51 minutes. Post received an incredible amount of fame, including a reception at the White House and a triumphant parade in New York City. F.S. Hall gifted Post the record-breaking aircraft, 'Winnie Mae.'

Later Years and Contributions

Post aimed to open his own flight school but struggled to find investors due to his rural background and lack of formal aviation education. In order to pursue his dream, Post decided to embark on a solo around-the-world flight. He equipped 'Winnie Mae' with an autopilot and radio direction finder, both of which were in the final stages of development by the Sperry Company and the U.S. Army. With these advancements, he improved his previous record by 21 hours, becoming the first pilot to complete a solo round-the-world journey.

Upon his return to New York, more than 50,000 people gathered at the airfield to welcome him, followed by a triumphant parade through the city streets. In 1934, with funding from Phillips Petroleum, Post undertook a series of high-altitude flight experiments. Since his aircraft's cabin was not pressurized, he collaborated in designing a special pressure suit. Post successfully flew with the suit in September 1934, reaching heights of 50,000 feet. He attempted four transcontinental high-altitude flights, but technical issues prevented him from achieving his goals.

In 1935, Post began envisioning an air route, both for passengers and mail, between the West Coast of America and Russia. Lacking funds to purchase a flying boat, he assembled a custom aircraft by combining parts from two different planes. Post invited his friend, writer, and journalist Will Rogers, to join him on the plane's inaugural flight to gather material for a new article. While flying towards Point Barrow, Alaska, on August 15, adverse weather caused Post to veer off course. Although he successfully landed and determined their position, the engine failed during takeoff. The aircraft, unable to gain enough speed and with a heavy engine, crashed into the water, instantly killing Post and Rogers.

Two monuments were erected at the site of their death, which is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places. An airport in Oklahoma was named in honor of Wiley Post, and his aircraft and high-altitude suit are on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Post received several government honors from various countries for his achievements.