Described by Charles Lindbergh as the “Prince of Navigators,” Harold Gatty was one of the first professional air navigators in the United States
Wiley Post, with Harold Gatty as navigator, circled the world in 1931, shattering previous records. Their plane, the Winnie Mae, served as a flying laboratory for many new technologies, including the new Weems System of Navigation.
Gatty became chief navigation engineer for the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1932, as it was starting to develop strategies for long-range navigation.
After returning to his native Australia, he continued to provide invaluable service by helping develop air resupply routes in the South Pacific and helping create the U.S. Navy’s navigation handbook for survivors adrift at sea on rafts.
Gatty received the Distinguished Flying Cross from President Herbert Hoover at the White House for “his intrepid courage, remarkable endurance, and matchless skill materially advancing the science of aerial navigation.” This was an exceptional honor for a noncitizen. Hoover offered to push special legislation to grant U.S. citizenship to Tasmanian-born Gatty, but he refused the offer.
“[Harold Gatty] is the only back seat driver that ever made good.”
— Will Rogers