August 23: Famous Aviator Wiley Post Visits Connecticut

 

Today in 1933, Wiley Post, one of the most famous pilots in the world, flew into Hartford’s Brainard Field, just a few weeks after completing a record-breaking solo flight around the world.

In the 1930s, Wiley Post was a household name second only to Charles Lindbergh in terms of famous American aviators. Post, a native of north Texas, had embarked on a series of odd jobs as a young man in order to escape what he viewed as the unexciting life of a cotton farmer. In 1926, an accident on an oil rig caused Post to lose the use of his left eye — but the insurance payout he received from the incident allowed him to enroll in flight school and purchase his first airplane. Post excelled at flying in spite of his reduced depth perception and soon gained a reputation as a daredevil, making national headlines when he won an air race from Chicago to Los Angeles in 1930.

One of Post’s most famous feats, however, was the solo round-the-world flight he accomplished in a record seven days, 18 hours, and 45 minutes in June of 1933. Soon after his famous flight, Post embarked on a tour across America, with Hartford being one of his scheduled stops. Unfortunately, inclement weather on August 23rd prevented Post from flying the Winnie Mae, the experimental plane in which he flew around the world, into Hartford; he ended up arriving in a backup plane from Springfield instead. In spite of the constant threat of rain, Post was escorted by an elaborate parade (including a 21-piece band) to the State Capitol in downtown Hartford, where he was welcomed by state dignitaries and given an honorary medallion by the mayor of the city.

Wiley Post posing in front of the Winnie Mae. (Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum)

By the 1930s, Connecticut had already become a world leader in aviation, with companies like Pratt & Whitney and Hamilton Standard already established as international leaders in aviation manufacturing. After Post’s welcome at the State Capitol, he gave a radio interview in which he thanked the employees of Pratt & Whitney for building the dependable engine that powered his famous plane, the Winnie Mae. Afterwards, he was escorted to the Farmington Country Club for a private dinner with leading aviation executives from around the state. One of the largest aviation hubs in the world paid homage to one of the greatest pilots in the world, on this day in Connecticut history.

Further Reading

Wiley Hardeman Post, Daredevil” National Aviation Hall of Fame

Roger Connor, “Remembering Wiley Post and Will Rogers,” Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum

Carl M. Cannon, “The Lofty Ambitions of Wiley Post,RealClearPolitics