Oklahoma has a rich history in aviation.
Thomas and Paul Braniff, founders of Braniff International Airways, were both born in Kansas, Tom in Salina on Dec. 6, 1883, and Paul in Kansas City on Aug. 30, 1897. In 1900, the family moved to the new Oklahoma Territory. In 1928, they began to operate schedule air carrier flights between Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Both brother, pioneers in the aviation industry, died in 1954.
James “Jabby” Jabara was the first American jet ace. Born in Muskogee, Okla., on Oct. 10, 1923, he lived in Kansas where he enlisted as an aviation cadet at Fort Riley after graduating from high school. Jabara flew two tours of combat duty in Europe during World War II as a North American P-51 Mustang pilot, and scored 1.5 air victories against German aircraft.
Jabara flew his first jet aircraft in 1948, the USAF Lockheed F-80 Shooting Star before transitioning to the USAF North American F-86 Sabre. Jabara used this aircraft to shoot down multiple Soviet-built MiG-15 jets during the Korean War. He achieved his first confirmed air victory of the war on Apr. 3, 1951. A month later he was credited with his fifth and sixth victories, making him the first American jet ace in history. He eventually scored 15 victories, giving him the title of “triple ace”. Jabara was ranked as the second – highest-scoring U.S. ace of the Korean War. He received the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, and the British Distinguished Flying Cross for his accomplishments in combat.
He flew the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter and later the Convair B-58 Hustler. In Nov. of 1966, while on leave from service in Vietnam, Colonel Jabara was traveling with his family to their new home when his daughter crashed the car she was driving, killing them both.
Wiley Post, 1898-1935, was the first pilot to fly solo around the world. He was born in Texas on Nov. 22, 1898, but his family moved to Oklahoma when he was five. He was an indifferent student who completed the sixth grade. By 1920, his family settled on a farm near Maysville, Okla.
Young Wiley’s first view of an aircraft in flight came in 1913 at the county fair in Lawton, Okla. The plane was a Curtiss – Wright “Pusher type“. He immediately enrolled in the Sweeney Automobile and Aviation School in Kansas City.
Post’s aviation career began at age 26 as a parachutist for a flying circus, Burrell Tibbs and His Texas Topnotch Fliers, and he became well known on the barnstorming circuit. On Oct. 1, 1926, an oil field accident cost him his left eye, and he used the settlement money to buy his first aircraft. Around this time, he met fellow Oklahoman Will Rogers when he flew Rogers to a rodeo, and the two became close friends. Post was the personal pilot of wealthy Oklahoma oilmen Powell Briscoe and F.C. Hall in 1930 when Hall bought a Lockheed Vega, one of the most famous record-breaking aircraft of the early 1930s. The oilman nicknamed it the Winnie Mae after his daughter, and Post achieved his first national prominence in it by winning the National Air Race Derby, from Los Angeles to Chicago. The fuselage was inscribed, “Los Angeles to Chicago 9 hrs. 8 min. 2 sec. August 27, 1930.”
On June 23, 1931, Post and the Australian navigator Harold Gatty, left Roosevelt Field on Long Island, New York, in the Winnie Mae with a flight plan that took them around the world. They arrived back on July 1, after traveling 15,474 miles in the record time of 8 days, 15 hours, and 51 minutes, in the first successful aerial circumnavigation by a single – engine monoplane.
The reception they received rivaled Charles Lindbergh‘s everywhere they went. They had lunch at the White House on July 6, rode in a ticker-tape parade the next day in New York City. After the flight, Post acquired the Winnie Mae from F.C. Hall, and he and Gatty published an account of their journey titled, Around the World in Eight Days, with an introduction by Will Rogers.
Post decided to attempt a solo flight around the world and to break his previous speed record. After improving his plane, in 1933, he repeated his flight around the world, this time using an auto – pilot and compass in place of his navigator and becoming the first to accomplish the feat alone. Fifty thousand people greeted him on his return on July 22 after 7 days, 18 hours, 49 minutes.
On Aug. 15, 1935, Post and American humorist Will Rogers were killed when Post’s aircraft crashed on takeoff from a lagoon near Point Barrow in the Territory of Alaska. Post is buried in Oklahoma City.
Major General Clarence Leonard Tinker was a career United States Army officer, the highest ranking Native – American officer and the first to reach that rank. He was born Nov. 21, 1887, near Pawhuska, Okla., in the Osage Nation. He was raised as an Osage and learned the language and culture from his parents and extended family.
In the fall of 1906, Tinker enrolled at Wentworth Military Academy in Missouri. He graduated in 1908 and was commissioned a third lieutenant in the Philippine Constabulary, serving until 1912.
Tinker began flying lessons. In 1922, he transferred to the Army Air Service.
Tinker commanded various pursuit and bomber units during the 1930s. He was steadily promoted, and on Oct. 1, 1940 became a brigadier general.
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Tinker was named Commander of the Seventh Air Force in Hawaii to reorganize the air defenses of the islands. He was promoted to major general, the first Native American in U.S. Army history to attain that rank.
In June 1942, in the midst of the Battle of Midway, General Tinker decided to lead a force of early model B-24s against the retreating Japanese navy. Near Midway Island, his plane was seen to go out of control and plunge into the sea. General Tinker and ten other crewmen perished. He was the first U.S. Army general officer to be killed in World War II. Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City is named in his honor.
Some aviation tidbits about Guymon. The airport, where it is today, required a bridge across the draw there at what is today’s Thompson park and an earthen dam was the choice the city fathers chose. That dam sometimes held water and city residents enjoyed the lake … so our fabulous Thompson Park and Sunset Lake was really a sort of happenchance because of the airport.
There are many photos of the Flying Farmers that used to have a club at the Guymon Airport. They would have breakfasts and such and invite other clubs to come in. Looks like they had a good time!
Guymon has an excellent airport and if you haven’t seen it, go out there sometime. It’s great and Gregg Downing is interesting to talk to about planes and such.