BY DAVID PERRYMAN
We know all about Charles Lindbergh and the pride that he brought to our country as an aviation pioneer. His non-stop 1927 transatlantic flight in the “Spirit of St. Louis” brought him world acclaim. But today, few recall the name of the mechanic who modified the fuel tanks on Lindbergh’s plane and lengthened the wings by more than 10 feet to increase lift.
This young mechanic, Douglas Corrigan, actually pulled the chocks away from the wheels of the Spirit of St. Louis when Lindberg departed San Diego for Roosevelt Field on Long Island, NY, to begin his historic flight to Le Bourget Field in Paris, France.
While Charles Lindbergh went on to become a household name following his New York City ticker tape parade, it is a little known fact that 13 years later, an even larger New York City crowd attended a ticker tape parade for the mechanic whose own remarkable feat caught the imagination of a depressed American public.
Corrigan, whose nameless, ragtag jalopy of a plane prevented him from obtaining the Bureau of Commerce’s permission for his own transatlantic flight, became known as “Wrong Way Corrigan,” when in July 1938, he filed a flight plan west from Brooklyn, N.Y., to Long Beach, Calif., and promptly flew east to County Dublin, Ireland.
In many ways, Corrigan’s feat was more remarkable than Lindbergh’s. Lindbergh flew the finest plane that money could buy, while Corrigan flew in a patched and soldered plane with NO radio and only a 20-year-old compass. His door was tied shut with baling wire and he sat hunched forward surrounded by so many fuel tanks that he could not see in front of the plane. Many would call that “flying by the seat of his pants.”
Oklahoma’s version of “flying by the seat of its pants” is not doing so well.
Oklahoma policymakers are flying like they cannot see what is in front of them. They slash programs that are the only hope to break cycles of poverty and domestic abuse. They refuse to accept federal funding for mental health treatment and counseling and health coverage to improve the health of uninsured working Oklahomans.
Men and women who want to provide for their families and worry about putting food on the table have no access to health care and risk losing their jobs when they become sick. Consequently, they get so sick that they must use an emergency room because a simple shot or prescription will no longer cure them. That red ink is most of the $560 million in uncompensated care that Oklahoma hospitals suffered in 2014.
Wrong Way Corrigan’s navigational “errors” sent him in the wrong direction but gave America a laugh and raised its spirits. The damaging path that Oklahoma has taken is no laughing matter and puts virtually every vulnerable Oklahoman at risk. Oklahoma voters must demand leaders who will address these issues.
– David Perryman, a Chickasha Democrat, represents District 56 in the Oklahoma House