Twitter Icon Facebook Icon Instagram Icon YouTube Icon

Oklahoma's Aviation Heritage

Oklahoma has a rich aviation heritage.

Clyde Cessna began testing aircraft near Enid early in the 20th century

Following WWI, two airlines were founded in the state. Tulsa-Oklahoma City Airways was founded in 1927 by Tom and Paul Braniff; while Southwest Air Fast Express was established in 1928 by future oil-industry tycoon Erle P. Halliburton. Both airlines were bought by American Airways, the predecessor of American Airlines.

In the 1930s, two U.S. aviation pioneers called Oklahoma home; “Oklahoma’s favorite son” Will Rogers and Wiley Post. Post’s record-breaking round-the-world solo flight in 1933 in his Lockheed Vega (the “Winnie Mae”) is still regarded as a landmark in U.S. aviation history and was financed (INSERT LINK TO CHECK PHOTO), in part, by members of the Greater OKC Chamber. Post went on to develop one of the first pressure suits, allowing him to fly to an altitude of 50,000 ft. in 1934 and discover the existence of the jet stream. Post and Rogers died together in 1935 when their Lockheed Explorer floatplane crashed on takeoff near Barrow, Alaska. Oklahoma City’s main airport - Will Rogers World Airport – and its primary reliever – Wiley Post Airport – honor the two Oklahoman’s passion for aviation. 

Many of today’s airports in Oklahoma were originally Army Air Force training bases and there were Naval Aviation training facilities at Naval Air Station Clinton and Naval Air Station Norman, and a Naval Air Gunners School was located at Purcell. Naval Air Station Clinton was closed at the end of the war and turned over to the City of Clinton. In Sept. 1954 USAF leased the site as Clinton-Sherman AFB. Today the facility is known as the Oklahoma Air & Space Port, licensed by the FAA for use in takeoff and landing of reusable launch vehicles.