Has all this patriotism given you the drive to take to the skies? We don’t blame you. In fact, Oklahoma City has long been a powerhouse of aviation, with connections to some of history’s greatest aviators. This includes Wiley Post, who was the first pilot to fly solo around the world.
In 1913, the Post family visited a county fair in Lawton, Okla., where Wiley saw his first aircraft in flight. This inspiration caused Wiley to immediately enroll in the Sweeney Automobile and Aviation School in Kansas City, and upon graduating he returned to Oklahoma to work. His aviation career began in 1924, when he worked as a parachutist for a flying circus at the age of 26. After working as a private pilot for wealthy Oklahoma oilmen for a few years, Wiley bought a high-wing, single-engine Lockheed Vega nicknamed “Winnie Mae” in 1930. Wiley was at the helm of this aircraft when he won the National Air Race Derby from Los Angeles to Chicago on Aug. 27, 1930. This garnered him national attention, and Wiley completed his first solo flight around the world in 1931.
During his career, Wiley also helped develop the first practical pressurized suit, which he used in an unpressurized cabin at heights reaching 50,000 feet. Because of the heights he reached, literally, Wiley is often credited with discovering the existence of jet streams.
While Wiley Post may be our most famous aviator, Oklahoma’s claim to aviation fame runs deep in its own right. In addition to the contributions made to both military and private aviation, Oklahoma City is home to the International Organization of Women Pilots, and you can learn more about the female contribution to early aviation at the 99s Museum of Women Pilots located near Will Rogers World Airport.