Now the VOA Special English program EXPLORATIONS.
Today Shirley Griffith and Doug Johnson tell about pilot Wiley Post. He set new
records when he flew his own airplane around the world in nineteen
was nineteen thirty-three. Only six years earlier Charles Lindburgh became
famous around the world as the first person to fly alone across the Atlantic
Ocean. Now, a young pilot was trying to fly across Russia. He had left Moscow
several hours before. All he heard was the sound of the one engine that powered
his plane. Hour after hour the same sound.
Now the weather was bad. He could
not see much ahead, only the fog. Flying in fog is very dangerous. Yet the
sound of the engine made everything seem warm and safe. Then, out of the fog he
saw a mountain. He had only seconds to bring the airplane up. It was a narrow
escape, one of many he would have during his long flight.
young pilot was Wiley Post. He was trying to fly around the world by himself.
He made the trip in less than eight days. He stopped eleven times for fuel,
food and a little sleep.
Wiley Post made his famous flight in July, nineteen
thirty-three. Not many flight instruments existed that could help him find his
way. He was alone, fighting against sleep. If he fell asleep he would die.
in Wiley Post's early years suggests that he would become a famous pilot. He was
born in Grand Saline, Texas, in eighteen ninety-eight. His family were farmers.
In nineteen thirteen, Wiley saw
something that forever changed his life -- an airplane. After watching the
plane fly, young Wiley waited until most people had left the area. He then
began inspecting and studying the plane. He measured different parts of the
plane with his hands. Many years later, Wiley Post would say that first
airplane was the most wonderful thing he had ever seen.
Post began to study everything he could find about flying. He began to educate
himself about subjects such as mathematics, radio and machinery. His
self-education would continue the rest of his life. Post finally rode in an
airplane in nineteen nineteen. At the
time, many people believed all pilots were special people. They believed it
took special skills and courage to fly an airplane. But after his first ride,
Wiley Post knew that flying was something he could learn to do.
Post began his career in flying, not as a pilot, but as a performer who jumps
from airplanes using a parachute. He did this with a group that performed
flying tricks to earn money. He jumped ninety-nine times in two years with the
flying show. When he was not jumping with a parachute, he was being taught how
to fly by pilots in the air show. But he could not fly as often as he liked.
Post then decided the only way to become a good pilot was to buy an airplane of
his own. He needed more money than he earned in the flying show. He went to
work in the oil-producing areas of Texas. But he damaged his left eye in an
accident. Doctors had to remove his eye. At first, Post thought his days as a
pilot were ended. A pilot needs to be able to judge distance. Judging distance
is difficult without two eyes. It seems impossible to tell how big objects are
and how far away. Wiley Post began teaching himself to judge distance with only
one eye. He worked hard at training his eye and brain to tell the correct
distance. It took a long time, but he succeeded. He continued to fly and soon
became a very good pilot.
nineteen twenty-eight, he got a job flying the plane that belonged to a rich
oil producer from Oklahoma. The man's name was F.C. Hall. He bought a new
airplane for Post to fly. Mister Hall named the airplane the "Winnie
Mae" after one of his daughters.
F.C. Hall told Post he could use the plane to enter
flight competitions. Post did. In nineteen thirty, he entered the National Air
Races. The race called for flying without stopping from Los Angeles in the
western state of California, to the city of Chicago, in the middle western
state of Illinois. Post won the race. He defeated several well known pilots. It
was the first time the public heard the name Wiley Post.
was not really interested in racing airplanes. He wanted to be the first person
to fly around the world. Many pilots had talked about trying to make such a
flight. But no one had done it.
Post believed he would need someone to help him in the
effort. He chose an Australian man, Harold Gatty, to do the mathematics that
decided the plane's direction. Post would fly the plane. On June twenty-third,
nineteen thirty-one, Post and Gatty took off from Roosevelt Field in New York.
They returned to Roosevelt Field eight days, fifteen hours and fifty-one
minutes later. They had flown around the world.
first everyone was very happy. Wiley Post and Harold Gatty were heroes. Then
many people began to say that Post was nothing more than an airplane driver
because he had no real education. They said Gatty was the real hero. He had
guided the flight. Both men knew they had made the flight as a team. Others did
not recognize this. This hurt Post. Wiley Post began to plan another flight
around the world. This time he would go alone.
Post knew that any effort has a good chance of success if the person planning
the task is well prepared. So he worked hard to prepare well. He used the most
modern equipment possible. He made sure the engine on the "Winnie
Mae" was perfect. And to prepare himself, he went without sleep for long
periods of time.
On July fifteenth, nineteen thirty-three, Post took off
from Floyd Bennett Field in New York. His first stop would be Berlin, Germany.
He landed in Berlin twenty-six hours later. He became the first person to fly
from New York to Berlin without stopping.
a little food for himself and fuel for the "Winnie Mae," Post was
once again in the air. This time he was headed for Russia. For long hours he
flew, listening only to the sound of his engine. Often, the weather was so bad
he could not see where he was. At one point he came so close to running out of
gas he considered using his parachute. But at the last minute he found a place
to land and get gas. The flight across the huge width of Russia was difficult.
He made several stops for gas and a few hours rest before flying across the
Bering Sea to Alaska.
now, he was very tired. To keep himself awake as he flew east during the long
night, Post tied a piece of string to one finger. The other end of the string
was tied to a heavy aircraft tool. He held the tool in his hand. If he started
to fall asleep, the tool would fall from his hand. The string would pull his
finger and wake him.
From Fairbanks, Alaska, he flew to Edmonton, Canada and
then on toward New York. More than fifty thousand people waited at Floyd
Bennett Field. Wiley Post gently landed
the "Winnie Mae" long after dark. He had flown around the world in
seven days, eighteen hours and forty-nine minutes.
Thousands of excited people rushed toward the plane.
Wiley Post was a hero. He had become the most famous pilot in America.
nineteen thirty-five, only two years after his around the world record flight,
Wiley Post was killed in a flying accident in Alaska. Post and the famous
American humorist Will Rogers were killed when Post's plane crashed on
takeoff near Point Barrow.
Before Post's death, the government of the United States
had bought the "Winnie Mae." The
Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. owns the
plane. You can see it at the museum's
Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.
Many pilots have flown around the world since Wiley Post
made his famous flight. His record was first broken only a few years after his
death. Since that time many records for the trip have been made and broken. Yet
Wiley Post was the first to fly around the world … alone.
This program was written by Paul Thompson and produced by
Mario Ritter. I'm Shirley Griffith.
I'm Doug Johnson. Transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our programs are all
available -- free of charge -- at voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again next
week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.