Part of “Winnie Mae” returns to Oklahoma

A piece of the famous “Winnie Mae,” flown around the world on a record-setting flight by Oklahoma aviator Wiley Post in 1931, was returned to Oklahoma City Aug. 23 during a welcome home party and reception at Wiley Post Airport.A wheel cover, or pant, from Post’s Lockheed Vega, it will be the largest piece of the “Winnie Mae” on display aside from the airplane itself, which is at the Air and Space Museum annex at Dulles International Airport in Virginia. The wheel cover is signed by Wiley Post with the inscription, “8 days, 15 hrs, 51 mins” and the dates “July 23-July 1, 1931,” which are the elapsed time and dates of his historic flight.The wheel pant was found earlier this year by a California woman whose parents were pilots. Post had taken the airplane to California to replace the part after it was damaged during the around-the-world flight with Harold Gatty. Jackie Mullarky found it while renovating her parents’ Victorian house. She had planned to sell the wheel cover as scrap metal, but decided to do an Internet search on the date and name first.

“I was totally shocked. I couldn’t believe it,” Mullarky said in an interview with “The Oklahoman” in March, “then I found some pictures of the plane and said, ‘Oh. That’s it.” Oklahomans Bill and Sue Halpain flew to California to pick up the part. Bill Halpain was trained by the same flight instructor as Post.

The historic airplane part will be on display at the 99s Museum of Women Pilots near Will Rogers World Airport until the Curtiss-Wright Wiley Post Hangar is completed late next year.

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