22 July 1933: Wiley Hardeman Post and his Lockheed Model 5C Vega, NR105W, Winnie Mae of Oklahoma, landed at Floyd Bennett Field, Long Island, New York. He had departed from there on 15 July and in 7 days, 18 hours, 49 minutes, he flew 15,596 miles (25,099.33 kilometers), circling the Northern Hemisphere. He made 11 stops for fuel and rest. In 1931 he had flown approximately the same route with a navigator, Harold Gatty, aboard, but for this flight Post was by himself. This was the first solo around-the-world flight.
The Vega was a single-engine, high-wing monoplane was designed by John Knudsen (“Jack”) Northrop and Gerrard Vultee. Both men would later have their own aircraft companies. It was a very state-of-the-art aircraft for its time. It used a streamlined monocoque fuselage made of spiral strips of vertical grain spruce pressed into concrete molds and held together with glue. The wing and tail surfaces were fully cantilevered, requiring no bracing wires or struts to support them.
The Lockheed Model 5C Vega is 27 feet, 6 inches (8.382 meters) long with a wingspan of 41 feet (12.497 meters) and overall height of 8 feet, 2 inches (2.489 meters). Its empty weight is 2,595 pounds (1,177 kilograms) and gross weight is 4,500 pounds (2,041 kilograms). The airplane is powered by a 1,343.8-cubic-inch-displacement (22.01 liter) air-cooled, supercharged Pratt and Whitney Wasp R-1340C single-row 9-cylinder radial engine producing 500 horsepower. The airplane had a cruise speed of 165 miles per hour (265.5 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 185 miles per hour (297.7 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling was 15,000 feet (4,570 meters) and range in standard configuration was 725 miles (1,166.8 kilometers).
The techniques used to build the Vega were very influential in aircraft design. It also began Lockheed’s tradition of naming its airplanes after stars and other astronomical objects.
The Winnie Mae was built by Lockheed Aircraft Company at Burbank, California in 1930. It had been purchased by an Oklahoma oilman, F.C Hall, and named after his daughter, Winnie Mae of Oklahoma. Wiley Post flew the Winnie Mae for Hall, and later purchased the airplane. He used it to set several speed records and to compete in the National Air Races. NR105W was sold to the Smithsonian Institution by Mrs. Post in 1936, following Wiley Post’s death.
© 2014, Bryan R. Swopesby