cover image FORGOTTEN EAGLE: Wiley Post, America's Heroic Aviation Pioneer

FORGOTTEN EAGLE: Wiley Post, America's Heroic Aviation Pioneer

Bryan B. Sterling, . . Carroll & Graf, $26 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-7867-0894-9

This workmanlike pop history centers on this incident on August 15, 1935: an airplane took off from a short and icy lagoon near Barrow, Alaska, rose sharply and banked to the right; moments later, it plunged into two feet of water, killing both men aboard. One of them was American showman and writer Will Rogers, whose life (and death) the Sterlings have covered at length (Will Rogers in Hollywood, etc.). The life, times and coincidental death of the fated plane's pilot, Wiley Post, are documented here in minute detail. After an oil derrick accident cost him an eye and nearly his commercial flying career, the often brazen Post persevered and became one of America's foremost aviators. In 1931, he and Harold Gatty set a world record by circling the globe in just over eight days; two years later, Post bested himself by pulling off the same feat solo. During both circumnavigations, he discovered and relied on a constant and exceedingly strong jet stream above 20,000 feet. Post's important discovery in atmospheric dynamics also led to the creation of a pressurized pilot suit—the prototype for what astronauts wear in space. But for all Post's accomplishments, he hasn't been remembered. The Sterlings present a wealth of information here—be it minutiae from the crash investigation or Post's exploits as a highwayman and daredevil. While their subject never ceases to entice, the high flier's tale is weighed down by ponderous detail; the pace suffers and the living man doesn't quite come into focus. (Jan.)