July 22, 1933: Wiley Post flies around the world, again. The first to fly around the world did so in a Graf Zeppelin when Hugo Eckener piloted his airship around the globe. It took 21 days to complete the trip. On June 23, 1931 Wiley Post and Harold Gatty (navigator) left on the first fixed-wing flight around the world. They left from Long Island, New York aboard Winnie Mae and returned on July 1 after traveling 15,474 miles in 8 days, 15 hours, and 51 minutes. Their notoriety rivaled that of fellow pilot, Charles Lindbergh. Post and Gatty were received at the White House for lunch and were participants in a ticker tape parade given in their honor in New York City the next day. The two men published an account of their journey in a book called Around the World in Eight Days with an introduction by Will Rogers.
After the record breaking flight, Post hoped to be able to open his own aeronautical school but he was unable to raise the funds he needed. His rural background and limited education led financiers into doubting his ability to run his business. In order to prove detractors wrong, Post took up a new daring adventure. Now the owner of Winnie Mae, he was able to put in modifications and improvements. He installed an autopilot device and a radio detection finder which were still in the final stages of testing by the Sperry Gyroscope Company and the United States Army. Since he had the equipment aboard to help with navigation, he no longer needed to have a navigator aboard. In 1933, he left to make a solo trip around the world.
He left from Floyd Bennett Field and worked his way eastward again. He needed to make repairs several times during his flight as well as pick up some forgotten maps. The autopilot needed attention at several of his stops and he had to replace a propeller just as had been done on the first trip. He made it back on this day. He was greeted by 50,000 people as he returned home just 7 days, 18 hours, and 49 minutes after he left. He was also working on high altitude flights which entailed having a pressure suit as well as non-stop transcontinental flights. He made four attempts at high altitude non-stop flights from Los Angeles to New York, all of them failing for a variety of mechanical reasons. The farthest he got was to Cleveland, a distance of 2,035 miles.
He and Will Rogers had become friends. Post was working on making air mail work; Rogers was writing his popular newspaper columns. Post had made some modifications to his plane that were not exactly what he had hoped for, but the plane flew. Floats were added so that water landings and takeoffs could be made as the two went around the lakes of Alaska. The two left in August from Lake Washington, near Seattle. They made several stops in Alaska. The left Fairbanks, Alaska for Point Barrow on August 15, 1935. Due to bad weather, they stopped on a lagoon to ask for directions. As they took off, the engine failed at low altitude and the plane nose-dived into the water killing both men instantly. Post was 36 years old.
I cut the emergency switch just in time to keep ‘Winnie Mae’ from making an exhibition of herself by standing on her nose. That would have been fatal to our hopes.
But misfortunes never come singly.
We didn’t want to create a stir, … so we drove up to the edge of the crowd where we could get a view and sat there and waited. – all from Wiley Post
If you want to be successful, it’s just this simple. Know what you are doing. Love what you are doing. And believe in what you are doing. – Will Rogers
Also on this day: Public Enemy #1 – In 1934, John Dillinger met his end – maybe.
Cleaveland – In 1796, Cleveland, Ohio was named for the leader of the surveying party.
Falkirk – In 1298, the Battle of Falkirk took place.
And They’re Off – In 1894, the first motorized vehicle race was held.
Trailblazer – In 1793, Alexander Mackenzie finished the first transcontinental crossing of Canada.