Throughout history, St. Louis has produced and supported many talented aviators, including several aeronauts. Four individuals and their journeys are especially connected to the St. Louis flying tradition. John Wise, Captain Hawthorne Gray, Nikki Caplan, and Steve Fossett each captured a world record or accomplished a world feat during his or her lifetime.
Each of the four aeronauts are connected to St. Louis. In 1859, John Wise ascended in The Atlantic from St. Louis and traveled to Henderson, New York, to capture the world distance record. Captain Hawthorne Gray, stationed at Scott Field, set a new record altitude mark on his third attempt in 1927. Nikki Caplan, a resident of St. Louis, and her copilot C. Jane Buckles captured the women's world distance record for gas balloons in the AA-6 through AA-15 class in 1982 using The City of St. Louis. They were also the first all-female crew to fly in a James Gordon Bennett International Balloon Race in 1984. Finally, Steve Fossett ascended from St. Louis in his second and third attempts to be the first man to fly solo around the world in a balloon. He later won the title in 2002.
Continue reading throughout this section to learn more about these aeronauts and their connections with St. Louis. Take the opportunity to compare the flights of John Wise, Nikki Caplan, and Steve Fossett, the distance record holders, in the Flight Statistics section.
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