Friday, July 22, 2016

First Round-The-World Solo Flight Completed Today In 1933

Winnie Mae at her place of honor in the Time and Navigation exhibit at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington

On this day in 1933, the famed American aviator, Wylie Post, returned to Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn almost eight days after he began his solo round-the-world attempt. Two years earlier he flew a slightly shorter route accompanied by his friend and fellow pilot, Harold Gatty. On both trips he flew his Lockheed C5 Vega, Winnie Mae, an aircraft that had become as well known as its famous pilot. In August 1935, he and the American cowboy humorist, Will Rogers, died in the crash of Post's hybrid Lockheed home-built aircraft while exploring the possibilities of an air mail route across Alaska. 

Although Post is best remembered for his adventures as a pilot he made significant contributions to atmospheric research and high-altitude flight technology. His accomplishments include the discovery of the jet stream and the design and development of pressure suits. Read a brief and entertaining biographical sketch here and more information including several links here at

Wiley Post in his third pressure suit

Given the success and extent of our space programs today, it's hard to believe Post's solo occurred just thirteen years before my birth. We've come a long way in aviation and when you think about all the aircraft in flight around the world at this very minute the Post flight seems insignificant. As readers of this blog know, I'm somewhat fond of aviation so I'm perfectly happy to give Post the credit he deserve as an aviation pioneer in a time when even our heroic history seems little more than an afterthought to most Americans.

I offer this piece by Eric Whitacre to honor the dreams, accomplishments, and memory of Wiley Post. 

Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine

Music: Eric Whitacre
Lyrics: Charles Anthony Silvestri

Leonardo Dreams of his Flying Machine…
Tormented by visions of flight and falling,
More wondrous and terrible each than the last,
Master Leonardo imagines an engine
To carry a man up into the sun…

And as he’s dreaming the heavens call him,
softly whispering their siren-song:
“Leonardo. Leonardo, vieni á volare”. (“Leonardo. Leonardo, come fly”.)

L’uomo colle sua congiegniate e grandi ale,
facciendo forza contro alla resistente aria.
(A man with wings large enough and duly connected
might learn to overcome the resistance of the air.)

Leonardo Dreams of his Flying Machine…
As the candles burn low he paces and writes,
Releasing purchased pigeons one by one
Into the golden Tuscan sunrise…
And as he dreams, again the calling,
The very air itself gives voice:
“Leonardo. Leonardo, vieni á volare”. (“Leonardo. Leonardo, come fly”.)

Vicina all’elemento del fuoco…
(Close to the sphere of elemental fire…)
Scratching quill on crumpled paper,
Rete, canna, filo, carta.
(Net, cane, thread, paper.)
Images of wing and frame and fabric fastened tightly.
…sulla suprema sottile aria.
(…in the highest and rarest atmosphere.)

Master Leonardo Da Vinci Dreams of his Flying Machine…
As the midnight watchtower tolls,
Over rooftop, street and dome,
The triumph of a human being ascending
In the dreaming of a mortal man.

Leonardo steels himself,
takes one last breath,
and leaps…
“Leonardo, Vieni á Volare! Leonardo, Sognare!” (“Leonardo, come fly! Leonardo, Dream!”)


Photos and Illustrations:

Winnie Mae, Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum
Wiley Post, National Aeronautics and Space Administration


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