Tag Archives: Around-The-World-Flight

15–22 July 1933

Wiley Hardeman Post (Underwood and Underwood, Washington)
Wiley Hardeman Post (Underwood and Underwood, Washington)

15 July 1933: At 5:10 a.m., Wiley Hardeman Post took off from Floyd Bennett Field, Long Island, New York, on a solo around-the-world flight. His airplane was a Lockheed Model 5C Vega, NR105W, which he previously flown around the world in 1931 with navigator Harold Gatty.

On this flight, Post flew approximately the same route around the Northern Hemisphere, making 11 stops ¹ over a 15,596 mile (25,099.3 kilometer) flight. He returned to Floyd Bennett Field at 11:50½ p.m., 22 July 1933, after 7 days, 18 hours, 49½ minutes. Post’s total flight time was 115 hours, 36½ minutes. ²

This was the first solo around-the-world flight. Wiley Post was the first pilot to have flown around the world twice.

“With his touchdown at Floyd Bennett on this evening of July, 22, Wiley Post became the first person to circumnavigate the earth twice by aircraft. He was the first person to fly around the world alone, and he had done it with all possible speed. Post’s record remains unique. Fourteen years later in 1947 his record was ostensibly broken; but it was done under such radically different circumstances that the new record was really meaningless.” ³

Wiley Post, His Winnie Mae, and the World’s First Pressure Suit, by Stanley R. Mohler and Bobby H. Johnson, Smithsonian Annals of Flight Number 8, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C., 1971, Chapter 3, at Page 65

Wiley Post with his Lockheed Model 5C Vega, NR105W, at Floyd Bennet Field, Long Island, New York, 15 July 1933. (Rudy Arnold)
Wiley Post with his Lockheed Model 5C Vega, NR105W, at Floyd Bennet Field, Long Island, New York, 15 July 1933. (Rudy Arnold)

The Vega was a single-engine, high-wing monoplane designed by John Knudsen Northrop and Gerard Freebairn Vultee. It was a very state-of-the-art aircraft for its time. It used a streamlined monocoque fuselage made of longitudinal strips of vertical grain spruce pressed into concrete molds and bonded together with cassein glue. The wing and tail surfaces were fully cantilevered, requiring no bracing wires or struts to support them. They were built of spruce spars and ribs, covered with 3/32-inch (2.4 millimeters) spruce plywood.

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 as a Model 5B Vega, serial number 122. It was purchased by an Oklahoma oil driller, Florence C. (“F.C.”) Hall, on 21 June 1930, and named for his daughter, Winnie Mae Hall, The Winnie Mae of Oklahoma. The new airplane was painted white with purple trim. In 1932, NC105W was modified to the Vega 5C standard.

The Lockheed Model 5C Vega is 27 feet, 6 inches (8.382 meters) long with a wingspan of 41 feet, 0 inches (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).

Winnie Mae was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged 1,343.804-cubic-inch-displacement (22.021 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp C, serial number 3088, a single-row, nine cylinder, direct-drive radial engine. The Wasp C was rated at 420 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. at Sea Level. It was 3 feet, 6.63 inches (1.083 meters) long with a diameter of 4 feet, 3.44 inches (1.307 meters) and weighed 745 pounds (338 kilograms).

The standard Model 5C had a cruise speed of 165 miles per hour (266 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 185 miles per hour (298 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling was 15,000 feet (4,570 meters) and range in standard configuration was 725 miles (1,167 kilometers).

Wiley Post flew the Winnie Mae for F.C. Hall, and flew it around the world in 1931 with Harold Gatty as navigator. Post used it to set several speed records and to compete in the National Air Races. He purchased the airplane from Hall, 8 July 1931.

Winnie Mae was involved in an accident at Chickasha, Oklahoma, 21 April 1933. Flown by another pilot, the engine stopped on takeoff due to fuel starvation. It was found that gasoline had been stolen from the tanks by being siphoned. The damaged Vega was sent to Braniff Airways at Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for repair and an extensive overhaul. One fuselage half was replaced, and the fuselage covered in balloon cloth. The cockpit was rebuilt, all new control cables installed, and the wing repaired and reinforced. The tail surfaces were recovered and the landing gear was sent to Lockheed to be rebuilt. The Wasp SC1 was completely overhauled modified with new cylinders which increased the compression ratio from 5.25:1 to 6.0:1. The carburetor was overhauled by Bendix-Stromberg, and new magnetos installed. Using 87-octane aviation gasoline, it could produce 500 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m. (5-minute limit). The airplane’s original two-bladed Standard fixed-pitch steel propeller was replaced by a Smith 450-SI controllable-pitch propeller with Pittsburgh Screw and Bolt hollow steel blades.

Among other modifications, Post had the wing’s angle of incidence decreased 10° which reduced aerodynamic drag and increased the Vega’s speed by 10 miles per hour (16 kilometers per hour). The fixed tail skid was shortened to allow the airplane to reach a higher angle of attack for takeoff and landing. For the 1933 around-the-world flight, six fuel tanks were installed in the fuselage and four in the wings, giving the Vega a total fuel capacity of 645 gallons (2,442 liters). It was also equipped with a Sperry gyroscopic autopilot.

These modifications required the Vega to be licensed in a restricted category, and it was re-registered NR105W.

After Wiley Post was killed in an airplane crash near Barrow, Alaska, 15 August 1935, his widow, Mae Laine Post, sold NR105W to the Smithsonian Institution. It is on display in the Time and Navigation Exhibition at the National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C.

Wiley Post's Lockheed 5C Vega, NR105W, "Winnie Mae of Oklahoma", at the National Air and Space Museum.(Photo by Dane Penland, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution)
Wiley Post’s Lockheed 5C Vega, NR105W, The Winnie Mae of Oklahoma, at the National Air and Space Museum. (Photo by Dane Penland, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution)

¹ Berlin, Germany; Königsberg, Germany (now, Kalingrad, Russia); Moscow, Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic; Novosibirsk, Siberia, U.S.S.R, ; Irkutsk, Siberia, U.S.S.R.; Rukhlovo, Siberia, U.S.S.R. (Skorvorodino); Khabarovsk, Siberia, U.S.S.R.; Flat, Territory of Alaska; Fairbanks, Territory of Alaska; Edmonton, Alberta, Dominion of Canada; New York City, New York, United States of America.

² The international organization for flight records, the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, requires that a circumnavigation cross all meridians in one direction and be at least the length of the Tropic of Cancer, 22,858.729 miles (36,787.559 kilometers). Post’s flight was short of the required distance, so no official record was set.

³ Floyd Odom, Douglas A-26 Invader NX67834, 7–10 August 1947: Flight, “Just what he as proved is not clear. . . The late Wiley Post took come 187 hours to do the circuit. . . but that was fourteen years ago, in a Lockheed Vega with one 450 horsepower engine. Post had far less aid from navigational facilities, and almost only one piece of equipment common to the Winnie Mae and the Reynolds Bombshell is the automatic pilot, which in both cases enabled the human pilot to take occasional short snatches of sleep. Captain Odom’s engines had to run for 73 hours only, while Post’s kept going for 87. Pilot strain must have been approximately proportional to the length of time, so if human endurance is the criterion, Post’s was the greater achievement.”FLIGHT, Vol. 52, August 14, 1947, page 154

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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2 July 1937

Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Electra 10E Special, NR16020, takes off from Lae, Territory of New Guinea, 10:00 a.m., 2 July 1937

2 July 1937: At approximately 10:00 a.m., local time, Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan departed Lae, Territory of New Guinea, aboard their Lockheed Electra 10E Special, NR16020, enroute to Howland Island, 2,243 nautical miles (2,581 statute miles/4,154 kilometers) east-northeast across the South Pacific Ocean. The airplane was loaded with 1,100 gallons (4,164 liters) of gasoline, sufficient for 24 to 27 hours of flight.

They were never seen again.

Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Electra 10E, NR16020, prior to takeoff at Lae, Territory of New Guinea.
Great Circle route from Lae, Territory of New Guinea, to the Howland Runways, (N. 0° 48′ 29″, W. 176° 36′ 57″) on Howland Island (United States Minor Outlying Islands). 2,243 nautical miles (2,581 statute miles/4,154 kilometers). (Great Circle Mapper)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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1 July 1937

Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan with Mr. Jacobs, at Lae, Territory of New Guinea. (Wichita Eagle)

1 July 1937:  Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan are delayed another day at Lae, Territory of New Guniea.

“July 1st. ‘Denmark’s a prison,’ and Lae, attractive and unusual as it is, appears to two flyers just as confining, as the Electra is poised for our longest hop, the 2,556 miles to Howland Island in mid-Pacific. The monoplane is weighted with gasoline and oil to capacity. However, a wind blowing the wrong way and threatening clouds conspired to keep her on the ground today. In addition, Fred Noonan has been unable, because of radio difficulties, to set his chronometers. Any lack of knowledge of their fastness and slowness would defeat the accuracy of celestial navigation. Howland is such a small spot in the Pacific that every aid to locating it must be available. Fred and I have worked very hard in the last two days repacking the plane and eliminating everything unessential. We have even discarded as much personal property as we can decently get along without and henceforth propose to travel lighter than ever before. All Fred has is a small tin case which he picked up in Africa. I noted it still rattles, so it cannot be packed very full. Despite our restlessness and disappointment in not getting off this morning, we still retained enough enthusiasm to do some tame exploring of the near-by country.” —Amelia Earhart

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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30 June 1937

Amelia Earhart with her Lockheed Electra 10E Special, NR16020, at Lae, Territory of New Guinea.

30 June 1937. Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan are delayed at Lae, Territory of New Guinea.

“Everyone has been as helpful and co-operative as possible—food, hot baths, mechanical service, radio and weather reports, advice from veteran pilots here—all combine to make us wish we could stay. However, tomorrow we should be rolling down the runway, bound for points east. Whether everything to be done can be done within this time remains to be seen. If not, we cannot be home by the Fourth of July as we had hoped, even though we are one day up on the calendar of California. It is Wednesday here, but Tuesday there. On this next hop we cross the 180th Meridian, the international dateline when clocks turn back twenty-four hours.” —Amelia Earhart

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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29 June 1937

Photo of a replica of Earhart's Lockheed Electra 10E, flown by Linda Finch. (Tony Bacewicz / The Hartford Courant)
This is a photograph of Linda Finch’s Lockheed Electra over the Arafura Sea at sunset, 8 May 1997, as she recreated the flight of Amelia Earhart. (Tony Bacewicz /The Hartford Courant)

29 June 1937: Leg 28.  Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan fly the Lockheed Electra 10E, NR16020, from Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia, to Lae, Territory of New Guinea.

“Lae, New Guinea, June 30th. After a flight of seven hours and forty-three minutes from Port Darwin, Australia, against head winds as usual, my Electra now rests on the shores of the Pacific. Beyond the Gulf of Huon the waters stretch into the distance. Somewhere beyond the horizon lies California. Twenty-two thousand miles have been covered so far. There are 7,000 to go.

“From Darwin we held a little north of east, cutting across the Wellington Hills on the northern coast of Arnhem Land, which is the topmost region of Australia’s Northern Territory. The distance to Lae was about 1,200 miles. Perhaps two-thirds of it was over water, the Arafura Sea, Torres Strait and the Gulf of Papua.

“Midway to New Guinea the sea is spotted with freakish islands, stony fingers pointing towards the sky sometimes for hundreds of feet. We had been told the clouds often hang low over this region and it was better to climb above its hazardous minarets than to run the risks of dodging them should we lay our course close to the surface. Then, too, a high mountain range stretches the length of New Guinea from northwest to southeast. Port Moresby was on the nearer side, but it was necessary to clamber over the divide to reach Lae situated on the low land of the eastern shore. As the journey progressed we gradually increased our altitude to more than 11,000 feet to surmount the lower clouds encountered. Even at that, above us towered cumulus turrets, mushrooming miraculously and cast into endless designs by the lights and shadows of the lowering sun. It was a fairy-story sky country, peopled with grotesque cloud creatures who eyed us with ancient wisdom as we threaded our way through its shining white valleys. But the mountains of cloud were only dank gray mist when we barged into them, that was healthier than playing hide-and-seek with unknown mountains of terra firma below. Finally, when dead reckoning indicated we had traveled far enough, we let down gingerly. The thinning clouds obligingly withdrew and we found ourselves where we should be, on the western flanks of the range with the coastline soon blow us. Working along it, we found Lae and sat down. We were thankful we had been able to make our way successfully over those remote regions of sea and jungle – strangers in a strange land.” —Amelia Earhart

Great Circle route from Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia, and Lae, Territory of New Guinea, 1,002 nautical miles (1,153 statute miles/1,856 kilometers). (Great Circle Mapper)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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