22 July 2008

Celebrate 22 July

On this day in 1933, Wiley Post completed the first solo round-the-world flight. He had set the world speed record for round-the-world travel two years earlier in the same aircraft with a navigator, and sought to use that fame to open a flight school of his own. But Post was a redneck kid from the sticks of Oklahoma and west Texas with very little formal education and only one eye (he lost his left eye in an oil field accident at the age of 28), and other pilots derided him as more showman than pilot. So he spent a couple years tinkering on his airplane, installed one of the first functional autopilots, and took off in 1933 to fly around the world solo. The autopilot allowed him to nap in flight (although of course he made a number of stops along the way) and he completed the first solo round-the-world flight while simultaneously breaking his old speed record. Later Post would develop the first high-altitude pressure suit, forging a path that would eventually lead to G-Suits, X-15 flights, and space suits. Go ahead and toast ol' Wiley Post. The man has been largely forgotten and deserves better.

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