Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Wiley Post – An Oklahoma City Hero

Ed. Note 7/11/2008: I've just noticed that the links to the many images previously posted, from, 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!

(image is missing -- trying to locate another)

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

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

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, 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 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,, 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.

Edited 7/11/2008


Bob Kemper said...

Thanks...Great job. I'm linking this to the website.

Doug Dawg said...

Thanks, Bob ... and sorry to be so late in replying ... I just noticed your comment!

Bob Kemper said...

I lifted a photo of the Wiley Post Memorial and put it on my website with a link back to your site. I hope that's okay with you. Take a look.

Doug Dawg said...

Thanks, Bob, for your comment, and for your courtesy.

My "policy" as far as images I post on my blog are concerned, is always the same: My goal and pleasure is to post stuff about Okc history and that it be made available to anyone who wants to see it. Period and paragraph. No copyright, no restrictions.

So, sure, you and anyone else are certainly welcome to use any images I post here for free distribution to those who might be interested ... and that's certainly true for the great Wiley Post who I claim to be an "Oklahoma City Hero!"

Sometimes, when talking with "younger" people (than me), some (a) never even heard of Wiley Post (in the same category of people who could probably not tell you what the state capitol of, say, Nebraska, is, or, worse, "where" Nebraska "is" on the USA map (what's happened to teaching geography in grade school, I wonder?), or (b) if they did know his name, they didn't know of his Oklahoma City connection.

So, Bob, again, thanks for your comment, bravo for your great project which I hope will come to fruition, and feel free to use anything I post here as you want. For my part, I'll try to spread the word about Oklahoma City history, including its heros like Wiley Post!

Wiley Post was certainly one of the very best of them, but you don't need me to tell you that!

Doug Dawg said...

Bob, a 2nd reply ... I just went to your site and clicked the link ... that was a bittersweet day for me, to be sure, but, yes, on the wings of eagles are they who fly as a cloud.

Kristopher Crook said...

I just stumbled upon your blog and was surprised to see myself mentioned. I'm very passionate about the history of my hometown, Oklahoma City and have been collecting stories, images, etc. fot about 20 years now. Oddly, I live near the old Curtiss-Wright Field on May Avenue.

Anonymous said...

Why is Wiley Post left out of so many books on aerospace history?

Doug Dawg said...

Anon, I'm not familiar with the books, but if Wiley Post is indeed left out, he shouldn't be ... he is a true aviation pioneer.

Anonymous said...

Aerospace: The Journey of Flight
Civil Air Patrol Published 2000
He is not mentioned. I've seen this
in other publications as well.
Considering his contributions to both aviation and the space suit it seems odd.

Anonymous said...

I was about 7 years old and live in Wiley Post's house and farm back around 1936. I have some memories about the home. Any interest contact me at

Doug Dawg said...

Thanks, anon. Will do.

Anonymous said...

Doug Dawg, I saw your writings on the old Wiley Post airport that was on N May. I was in OKC on N Rockwell and decided to do some exploring and stopped by the new Wiley Post (the old Tulakes) and found that the old hanger from the original Wiley Post airport has never been rebuild on Millionaire Dr. I stopped by the Oklahoma Aviation Museum while there and talked to museums manager and questioned him, he said he had heard rumors, but really knows nothing more about it or its existence. It's really ashame that it hasn't been rebuilt or maybe not even exist.

Doug Dawg said...

Thanks, anon. Yes, it's a shame. I suppose it has to do with funding, but I don't know.