Wiley Post Becomes First Pilot to Fly Solo Around the World
After the record-setting flight, Post wanted to open his own aeronautical school, but could not raise enough financial support because of doubts many had about his rural background and limited formal education.
Motivated by his detractors, Post decided to attempt a solo flight around the world and to break his previous speed record. Over the next year, Post improved his aircraft by installing an autopilot device and a radio direction finder that were in their final stages of development by the Sperry Gyroscope Company and the United States Army. In 1933, he repeated his flight around the world, this time using the auto-pilot and compass in place of his navigator and becoming the first to accomplish the feat alone. He departed from Floyd Bennett Field and continued on to Berlin where repairs were attempted to his autopilot, stopped at Königsberg to replace some forgotten maps, Moscow for more repairs to his autopilot, Novosibirsk, Irkutsk for final repairs to the autopilot, Rukhlovo, Khabarovsk, Flat where his airscrew had to be replaced, Fairbanks, Edmonton, and back to Floyd Bennett Field. Fifty thousand people greeted him on his return on July 22 after 7 days, 19 hours - 21 hours less than his previous record, and he was given a second ticker-tape parade in New York.
Post took off from Floyd Bennett Field, Long Island, on July 15, 1933. Aboard the Winnie Mae were two new devices--a Sperry gyroscope and a radio direction finder--that would make his flight without a navigator that much easier. The gyroscope automatically corrected the plane if it deviated from a particular bearing, while the radio direction finder helped the pilot navigate toward certain distinct radio transmitters. Although Post had problems with his gyroscope and he suffered another bent propeller, he repaired both items and stuck to his predicted pace. The result was a new around-the-world record of 7 days 18 hours and 49 minutes. Post had bettered his previous record by 21 hours.
In 1933, he repeated his round-the-world flight, but this time did it solo, with the aid of the auto-pilot and radio compass. He took off from New York's Floyd Bennett Field on July 15, bound, non-stop, for Berlin. Despite bad weather over the Atlantic, he made it in 26 hours, setting a record for a New York-to-Berlin flight. After a couple false starts, he departed Germany, only to be forced down in Moscow by trouble with his auto-pilot. While more repairs were needed in Novosibirsk and Irkutsk, he reached Khabarovsk ten hours ahead of his previous record.
Post, accompanied by navigator Harold Gatty, made his first around-the-world flight from June 23 to July 1, 1931, in a Lockheed Vega named Winnie Mae (now part of the Smithsonian Institution's collection), completing the voyage in 8 days, 15 hours, 51 minutes; later that year their account of the trip was published as Around the World in Eight Days. Two years later, again piloting the Winnie Mae, Post achieved his solo record, covering a total of 15,596 mi (25,099 km) in 7 days, 18 hours, 49 minutes, from July 15 to July 22, 1933. On this flight he proved the value of navigational instruments, including the automatic pilot. He later went on to establish altitude records, wearing a pressure suit of his own design to survive the high-altitude conditions.