On February 22, 1935, at the United Airport in Burbank, noted aviator Wiley Post laced into his pressurized suit and squeezed into the cockpit of a highly modified Lockheed Vega 5C. Post was attempting the first non-stop stratospheric flight across the United States in the “Winnie Mae.”
Unfortunately, Post's historic flight was cut short after fifty-seven miles as he was forced to make an emergency landing at Muroc Dry Lake (now Edwards Air Force Base).
Post made the landing without landing gear, and his descent was so skillful that the proprietor of the Muroc General Store, H. E. Mertz, did not hear the crash over his wind-powered sail car. When Post asked Mertz for assistance in removing his helmet, clad in his altitude suit, the merchant almost fainted from surprise.
A few days after the incident, it was announced the record attempt has been deliberately sabotaged by someone who placed emery dust in the engine, reducing it to junk. Post survived due to his superb piloting skills and the vast landing strip which enabled him to avert a tragedy.
In August that same year, Post was involved in another aviation accident near Point Barrow, Alaska. Famous American cowboy and actor, Will Rogers, was a passenger on this flight and both men died on impact.
Rogers believed aviation was the future of travel, and consequently took every chance he could to fly. Today Will Rogers would have turned 140 years old.
Photo courtesy of MOAH Collections