Little Bits of History

Wily Pilot

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 22, 2015
Wiley Post

Wiley Post

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.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 15, 2013
Will Rogers

Will Rogers

August 15, 1935: Beloved Humorist and World Famous Pilot are killed in a plane crash. Will Rogers was not only funny but a social commentator and actor. Wiley Post was the first to fly solo around the world in 1933. Post began his career as a parachutist for Burrell Tibbs and His Topnotch Fliers. In 1926, just short of his 28th birthday, he lost his left eye in an oil field accident. He used his settlement to purchase his first plane. He first met Will Rogers while flying him to a rodeo and the two became friends.

Post, using a wealthy oilman’s plane, won the National Air Race Derby in 1930 making the LA to Chicago flight in 9 hours, 9 minutes, and 4 seconds. After Graf Zeppelin’s trip around the world (see August 8), Post had a new goal. Post and his navigator, Harold Gatty, left Roosevelt Field on Long Island, New York on June 23, 1931 and returned 8 days, 15 hours, 51 minutes later having covered 15,474 miles. Using a self-installed autopilot and a radio compass, Post made the same trip alone in 1933 in 7 days and 19 hours – 21 hours less than the previous record – and he did it alone. He also was interested in high-altitude flight and helped to develop a functional pressure suit.

William Penn Adair Rogers was born in Oologah, Indian Territory, now Oklahoma. He was so adept with a lariat, he was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for throwing three at once. He worked in vaudeville and migrated to the movies; he was in 71 movies – 50 silent films and 21 talkies. He also wrote more than 4,000 syndicated newspaper columns. He was a poor student, being more interested in cowboys, horses, and the lariat. It paid off. He traveled around the world three times thrilling audiences with rope tricks, his sparkling wit, and commentary on the state of the world.

In 1935, Post was interested in a mail-and-passenger air route from the west coast to Russia. Without enough cash to buy a plane, he cobbled together parts from two different Lockheed aircraft, an Orion and a wrecked experimental Explorer. He used the non-retractable landing gear to make it a float plane. Rogers visited Post in California and they agreed to fly together up to Alaska, Rogers looking for new topics for his columns. Because some parts did not arrive in time, others were used making the plane nose-heavy. During some bad weather, Post landed on a lagoon to ask directions. The engine failed during takeoff and the nose heavy plane disintegrated as it crashed into the water, killing both men instantly.

“Civilization has taught us to eat with a fork, but even now if nobody is around we use our fingers.”

“I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat.”

“An ignorant person is one who doesn’t know what you have just found out.”

“Never miss a good chance to shut up.”

“Don’t let yesterday use up too much of today.” – all from Will Rogers

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Will Rogers was slightly more than ¼ Cherokee, both parents providing the lineage. His mother died when he was just 11 and his father remarried two years later. Will was the youngest of eight children but he and three of his sisters were the only ones to survive to adulthood. His father served as a Cherokee judge and in the senate. He also served as a delegate to the Oklahoma Constitutional Convention. Rogers County is named after Clement Rogers and not his more famous son. Will began his showman career as a trick roper with “Texas Jack’s Wild West Circus” and after a short time left for Australia with Texas Jack’s blessing and recommendation letter to work in a circus there. He worked as both a roper and rider and eventually returned to the US and began his Vaudeville career.

Also on this day: Yasgur’s Farm – In 1969, Woodstock begins.
Military Precision – In 1995, Shannon Faulkner arrives at the Citadel.
Macbeth – In 1057, King Macbeth was killed.