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July 14, 1998

The basis for another good Perry anecdote appeared in a recent Tulsa World article that dealt with a new book and its author, Bob Burke, an Oklahoma City attorney. Mr. Burke has written or co-written 19 books about Oklahoma history. One of these is From Oklahoma to Eternity: The Life of Wiley Post and the Winnie Mae. The author was guest speaker for the Oklahoma Heritage Association at a reception recently at Tulsa's fashionable Southern Hills Country Club. The meeting was covered by the Tulsa newspaper, and that's where the Perry connection was brought out.

Mr. Burke is chairman of the Wiley Post Commission which is celebrating the centennial anniversary of Post's birth. For those who may not recognize the name, Wiley Post, an Oklahoman, is an authentic aviation pioneer. An Oklahoma City airport is named for him. Following Mr. Burke's remarks, several Heritage Association members had stories to tell about Wiley Post. One of those contributions was provided by King Kirchner, Tulsa oilman, who grew up in Perry.

King related that when he took his father, the late Kenneth Kirchner, up for a ride in a new plane back in the 1960s, his father said the last pilot he had ridden with was Wiley Post on a flight from Oklahoma City to Perry. No other details were provided by the newspaper. I've checked with some of the local folks who knew Kenneth Kirchner quite well but none of them had heard the story previously. Someday I'd like to know how Mr. Kirchner came to be aboard a plane piloted by Wiley Post.

You will remember, of course, that Wiley Post was the pilot of the plane that crashed near Point Barrow, Alaska, on August 15, 1935, killing Mr. Post and his internationally known passenger, Will Rogers. Both men were celebrities of heroic stature who gave their fellow Oklahomans a good name. Mr. Post is the subject of a fascinating article in the current issue of Oklahoma Today magazine. You really should find a copy and read more about him. He has been inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame at Dayton, Ohio, among other well-deserved honors.

Wiley Post contributed substantially to the early growth and development of aviation, including the design and experimental use of a pressurized flight suit with features that were studied in preparation for today's space travelers. For a time during his career, he was employed as the personal pilot of Oklahoma City oilman F.C. Hall and that may have been when he had Kenneth Kirchner of Perry aboard his plane, the Winnie Mae, as a passenger. Wouldn't it be interesting to know more about that? Next time King Kirchner is in town, maybe one of us can get the rest of the story.