OKLAHOMA — It was perhaps the first sight of an airplane for 15-year-old Wiley Post, carrying Oklahoma’s youth into space. Watching a Curtiss “pusher” fly at the Lawton County, Oklahoma, fair in 1913 changed Post’s life.
Wiley Hardeman Post was born on November 22, 1898. He was the youngest of five children of small cotton farmers.
Not only did the sight of that first aircraft spark a passion for flying, but Post also designed a pressure suit that was a precursor to the pressure suits worn by test pilots and astronauts. Its early experimental flights ultimately proved the value of utilizing the east-west jet stream, according to the Oklahoma Historical Society.
Post, who died alongside Oklahoma humorist Will Rogers in 1935, was testing the operational capabilities of a hybrid airplane when it crashed, killing both men.
Post’s legacy can be seen with his name on airports, hangars and aviation schools today.
His rise to fame began in 1930 when he won an air race between Chicago and Los Angeles. His first voyage was chronicled in the 1931 book Around the World in Eight Days: The Flight of Winnie Mae, the biography states.
The famous airplane Winnie Mae, is on display at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. A full-size replica of the aircraft is on display in the Oklahoma History Center building in Oklahoma City.
In 1933, Post broke his world record with a time of seven days, eighteen hours and forty-nine minutes. After his record-breaking flights, he experimented with high-altitude flights, according to the Oklahoma Historical Society’s biography.
In 1935, Wiley Post built a hybrid seaplane out of a Lockheed Orion. The hybrid Orion proved to be aerodynamically unstable. Shortly after takeoff in the fog on August 15, 1935, Post lost control of the aircraft. It fatally crashed into Walakpa Lagoon near Point Barrow, Alaska.
Post’s remains were transported to Oklahoma for burial. His body was laid out in the Capitol Rotunda and more than 15,000 visitors saw his bronze coffin. His remains were interred at Memorial Park Cemetery in Edmond, Oklahoma.
information for tHis story comes from the Oklahoma Historical Society.