Will and Wiley August 1935 Wiley Post in the cockpit and Will Rogers on the wing in Alaska as they prepare to take off.
It’s been 81 years since Will Rogers and Wiley Post died in an Alaska plane crash. News of the crash on Aug. 15, 1935 remains a historic tragedy felt worldwide, but no place more stunned than Oologah, the town where Will was born of and the home place where he lived as a boy.
On Saturday, August 13, pilots will land on the 2,000-foot grass strip adjacent to the Will Rogers birthplace, honoring the memory of Will and Wiley, his pilot friend and fellow Oklahoman.
Last year, more than 30 years after the first Fly-In tribute at the ranch strip, records were set both in planes and people attending.
“This year is another opportunity for the public to get a close-up look at airplanes and meet the pilots and honor the memory of two men, who were undeniably the world’s most avid aviation boosters of their time,” said Tad Jones, Will Rogers Memorial Museums executive director.
It is also a time for pilots to reflect on their own experiences and renew friendships with other pilots.
Gates will open at 7 a.m. for ample public parking south of the landing strip. Some early-bird pilots start landing about sun-up and the air traffic continues all morning.
Pilots come from a four-state area surrounding Oklahoma, some from as close as Sageeyah Field, others from the Coffeyville, Wichita and Kansas City, Kansas area, others from Missouri, Lewisville in Texas and northwest Arkansas. Pilots come from all the northeast Oklahoma airfields, big and small.
The Fly-In is great for family activities as well as aviation lovers alike.
A tradition started several years ago by Joe Bacon, Will Rogers Memorial Museum Roper (docent), will continue when he and Lester Lurk from St. Genevieve, Mo., arrive at the airfield about 9 a.m. Lurk, who bears a resemblance to Will Rogers, attended an event a few years ago and has returned by popular demand.
In a tradition started last year, people across the country will be invited to join in a special moment of remembrance at 10 a.m. to be broadcast live over RSU Radio, 91.3 FM and on their website www.rsuradio.com. Mary West of Oologah will sing the “National Anthem.”
Bring your own lawn chair or blanket and have a ringside seat to watch planes land and take off or walk among the planes and visit pilots. Guests will also be permitted to visit the house and room where Will was born and reflect on when the message of Wills death was delivered to the ranch 81 years ago.
Other special activities will include antique cars, motorcycles, inflatables and games for children as well as food truck concessions on the grounds.
Admission is free but donations will be accepted. Come out on August 13 for an event guaranteed to take you to new heights.
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