84 years later: Pilots and fans remember Will and Wiley

A fully restored 1920s-era Spartan C3 biplane was showcased at past Will Rogers Wiley Post Fly-In.

It has been 84 years since Will Rogers and Wiley Post died in an Alaska plane crash. Will, one of aviation’s biggest boosters, and Wiley, who set flying records and invented the forerunner of the space suit, died August 15, 1935 on takeoff from a remote lagoon near Barrow.

The memory of that day and their contributions are remembered each year during the Will Rogers & Wiley Post Fly-In, planned Saturday, Aug. 10. Pilots of small planes will land on the 2,000 foot grass strip of the Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch near Oologah. A short distance away is the house and log-walled room where Will was born Nov. 4, 1879.

Gates open at 7:30 a.m. and pilots start landing early. The public can get a close-up look at small aircraft of all kinds, vintage and late model, and visit with pilots. During the past 30-plus years, pilots have come from a four-state area and occasionally, like last year, one from as far as Tennessee. A Texan returns each year to fly with his Funk Aircraft owner friends from Coffeyville, Kansas.

Will and Wiley (Pilot Tom Egbert, a Will Rogers Memorial Museum Roper-docent, and Lester Lurk, a St. Genevieve, Mo., farmer, who resembles Will) make a surprise landing about 9 a.m. A special moment of remembrance ill be observed at 10 a.m.

Bring your own lawn chair and settle among the crowds in the visitor’s gallery as planes make their landings and fly-overs and pilots stop to visit and share their plane’s story. Or walk among the parked planes and get a closeup look at some of the prized aircraft.

There will also be special activities for children — a Cherokee storyteller, antique and classic cars, special activities for kids, food trucks and of course tours of the Birthplace and Amish-built barn.

Admission is free and ample parking is provided.