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Wiley Post and the Winnie Mae

by John M. White |

The Winnie Mae Lockheed Model 5C Vega airplane and Wiley Post were destined for one another, and to make some history together. They had already set the single pilot round-the-world record by the end of August in 1930, but there was a lot more to come. Unlike many aviators of his day Wiley Post was a bit of a latecomer, beginning his career in aviation at the age of 26 barnstorming across the United States with a flying circus and performing as a parachutist. When he wasn't performing for the flying circus Wiley worked in the oil fields, and one day an accident caused him to lose his left eye. He received a cash settlement for the accident, and took that money and purchased his first aircraft. Soon he became the personal pilot for F.C. Hall and Powell Briscoe, a pair of oilmen from Oklahoma. F.C. Hall had a special Lockheed Vega built, the Model 5C, and named it after his daughter, Winnie Mae Hall. Many pilots of aircraft of the day resented the fact that the round-the-world flight record set in 1929 was held by a dirigible, the Graf Zeppelin, because they thought it should rather be held by an aircraft. With a great airplane as his steed, Post and navigator Gatty broke the record, established the airplane as superior to the Graf Zeppelin, and received a hero's welcome upon their return, lunching at the White House and riding in a ticker-tape parade in New York City. But Wiley Post wasn't finished yet. After completion of the upgrade and addition of an autopilot and radio compass Post set off once again to go around the world, closely following his previous route, and completing the flight in 7 days, 18 hours and 49 minutes. Not satisfied with those accomplishments, Post had the Winnie Mae modified for high altitude long distance flying. There was no way to pressurize the Winnie Mae, so he had B.F. Goodrich make him a full body pressure suit, and made the landing gear so that it could be jettisoned from the airplane. On March 15th of 1935 Wiley Post flew from Burbank, CA to Cleveland, Ohio in 7 hours and 19 minutes, at times achieving a ground speed of 340 miles per hour. Once again Wiley Post and the Lockheed Vega made history in aviation. Amelia Earhard's Lockheed Vega The Lockheed Vega was designed by John Northrup and Gerrar Vultee, and was intended to serve with Lockheed's airline routes. It utilized the latest technology, cantilever wings and a monocoque fuselage and the most powerful engine available at the time. The fuselage was laminated wood with a single spar across the top of the aircraft and powered with a 225 hp Wright Whirlwind engine. But the Winnie Mae had a Pratt & Whitney R-1340 450 hp Wasp engine which increased cruise speed to 165 mph. With all of its technological advances the Vega was difficult to land, and was reputed to have the ability to glide of a rock. It kind of reminds me of one of the first airplanes I ever flew, the Piper Colt. But, it was the preferred aircraft of the day by many adventurers, including Amelia Earhardt who flew her Lockheed Vega single handed as the first women to fly solo across the Atlantic. If you saw the movie, you know it was red, a picture of which you can see on the right side of this post. Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch! JetAviator7 Aviation Definition: Dead Reckoning: You reckon correctly, or you are. ps: Don't forget to sign up for our newsletter "All Things Aviation" here!

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