Mississippi Moment: The Key Brothers

Mississippi Moment

JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Space history is expected to be made on Saturday when a private company will launch two American Astronauts into space. Today’s mission was canceled due to the weather in Florida. This is a long way into the space age to still be setting “firsts.”

That’s about where pilots Fred and Al Key from Meridian, Mississippi, found themselves in the aviation age 85 years ago in June of 1935. There were very few “firsts” left to do, but they wanted to set a record of some kind. So they decided to accomplish a “longest.”

On June 4, 1935, the two brothers took off from what was then the Municipal Airport in Meridian with the idea of setting the record for staying up in an airplane longer than anybody ever had. The current record was 554 straight hours. 

Their mechanic, A.D. Hunter, invented the special valve they used to refuel the plane in flight. It only opened when the nozzle entered the fuel tank. And the reason that device was so important, the military took notice of it and adapted it for the in-flight refueling they do today.

Long story short, the Key brothers stayed up for 653 hours and 34 minutes, beating the old record by 100 hours and 26 minutes. 

And the next time anybody stayed up longer in any kind of aircraft was in 1973 when the first space station, Skylab, stayed up longer. They named their plane “Ole Miss” for the state, not the school, by the way.

And when the Key Brothers passed the old record, they were told by radio that the Meridian City Council had changed the name of the Meridian Municipal Airport to ‘Key Field,’ which is what it is still known as today.

So it isn’t a “space” record, but it took the space age coming along to finally beat it what a pair of brothers in Mississippi accomplished 85 years ago. 

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