Finding Your Jet Stream

Who would have imagined that a sixth grade, Oklahoma farm boy drop out, armed felon, ex-con, suffering from severe depression, blinded in one eye, would become a highly decorated, world famous pilot?

Who would have imagined that in the midst of his modest life filled with adversity, he would find his jet stream?

At the age of 15, he went to the county fair with his parents and there he saw what he had never before seen – a beautiful plane. With his love for mechanical devices and now the sight of this airplane, he knew then that he would become a pilot.

At the age of 26, his flight path in aviation began, not as you would expect however. He joined a barnstorming troupe as a skydiver. In that capacity, he made over 99 jumps, and for the very handsome fee of $200 a jump, but he never lost his dream of becoming a pilot.

It was in 1926, two years later that an accident on the oil rig occurred, where a flaming piece of metal pierced his left eye. The doctors thought he would be blind, but eventually the left eye was removed and he wore a patch over that eye from then on.

Now with no depth perception, while learning to fly, he used telephone poles and 2-story buildings to gauge the height of things. This made for extremely difficult landings, but he learned by practicing over and over and over. (In today’s setting he would never even be allowed to earn his wings.)

With pilot license in hand, he became a personal pilot for oil men and flew them to their sites and barnstormed on weekends. Having received $1,800 settlement for his eye injury, he bought his first airplane.

In 1930, he entered and won the Men’s Air Derby Race from LA to Chicago by more than an hour and a half and he even had a faulty compass.

It was in 1931 that he set his first world record for the first successful aerial circumnavigation by a single engine monoplane. After 8 days, 15 hours, and 51 minutes, stopping only eleven times, in the “Winnie Mae” he had made it around the world!

He received a hero’s welcome and was celebrated at the White House and with a ticker tape parade in NYC. Following this flight, he bought another plane and wrote a book.

Not content or satisfied, he continued to press himself. Not knowing what was above him, only knowing he had to go higher and faster. (this turned out to be prophetic)

In 1933 he repeated his flight around the world, this time accomplishing it alone and using instruments that he had invented – auto pilot and the aerial navigational compass. This set another record.

Yet, still above him was his jet stream.

Even though a Japanese meteorologist had used weather balloons in the 1920’s to track upper level winds around Mount Fuji, our guy is the one who first began exploring high altitude, long distance flight. Working with Goodrich and Phillips Petroleum he was able to design a high pressure suit. This allowed him to fly at high altitudes, which had never been done before.

He was now able to fly at altitudes of 40,000 – 50,000 feet above earth’s surface. He was the first to fly at these altitudes.

While on one of his practice runs (remember, he practiced and practiced and practiced), he noticed that his measurements for speed on the ground and speed in the air were different. This told him that he was actually flying in a current of air.

He had found the jet stream.

Although the term “jet stream” wasn’t officially used until a German meteorologist used it in a research paper in 1939, it was our guy, Wiley Post, who made the first practical advances by actually flying in it in 1934.

He had discovered his jet stream. Literally.

If you have even flown on an airplane cross country, you, too have probably flown in the jet stream.

The jet stream is what makes it possible for me to go and see my sister from CA to NY in 5.5 hours, but coming home it takes 6 plus hours!

The jet stream is a fast flowing, narrow band of air currents high in the atmosphere, approximately 5-9 miles above earth, thousands of miles long, and a few hundred miles wide. They blow from West to East, which is why flights going East will always be faster.

Thanks to Wiley Post, now all airlines, and aviation industries have found themselves depending on and utilizing the jet stream. So too, do weather services, because the jet stream pushes weather patterns around the world. The position of jet streams helps meteorologists forecast future weather events.

Wiley Post’s life exhibited what he “discovered”.

You have your own forward speed BUT if you continue in it in an environment that is moving, it propels you faster.

He was propelled forward, through much adversity by his vision and dream of being a pilot and inventing devices to help him fly. The environment that dream created was like a moving walkway at the airport. As he stepped on it, it moved him faster in the advancement of his dream.

Then, one day, he flew into that moving current in the air, and there, he was propelled faster through the sky.

He had found his jet stream.

I trust that you have found your jet stream, and if not, it is still above you, waiting to be found by you.

Cheers to you.

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