“Little did I know that someday, as an American astronaut, I would benefit from the invention of Wiley Post, a self-taught scientist. Every time I donned a pressurized suit on my many flights into space, I thought of Wiley.”
Born in Texas and raised in southern Oklahoma, Wiley Post dropped out of school at age twelve and worked as a mechanic and farmer before being sentenced to ten years in prison for robbing travelers near Ninnekah. Due to severe depression, he was released only 13 months later and soon began working as a parachute jumper and barnstormer near his family’s hometown of Maysville. He was working in the oil fields near Seminole in 1926 when a metal splinter hit him in the left eye. The eye became infected and had to be removed, thus creating challenges for his dreams of aviation and making him forever recognizable by the patch worn over his eye. With his workers’ compensation settlement, Post paid $300 for an old airplane and began an amazing career in flight. His famed Winnie Mae, owned by oilman F.C. Hall, became a historic partner in Post’s dream of setting distance and time records around the world. In 1931, Post teamed up with navigator Harold Gatty to set a new around-the-world record in only eight days. He developed the first pressurized suit for his high-altitude flight at Bartlesville and discovered the jet stream in 1934. Post joined his longtime friend Will Rogers on a flight to Alaska, where the famous men died near Point Barrow on August 15, 1935. More than 75,000 people watched as Post’s funeral, the largest in Oklahoma history, was held at First Baptist Church in Oklahoma City.
Wiley Post was a parachute jumper, test pilot, discoverer of the jet stream, and the inventor of the pressurized flight suit. In 1933 he became the first man to fly alone around the earth in just seven days, 18 hours, and 49 1/2 minutes.
Post came with his family to Rush Springs, Oklahoma, in 1907.