Charles Lindbergh and his Spirit of St. Louis

Charles Lindbergh

Charles Lindbergh

On February 4, 1902, American aviator, author, inventor, explorer, and social activist Charles Lindbergh was born. As a 25-year-old U.S. Air Mail pilot, Lindbergh emerged suddenly from virtual obscurity to instantaneous world fame as the result of his Orteig Prize-winning solo nonstop flight from New York to Paris, France in the single-seat, single-engine purpose-built Ryan monoplane Spirit of St. Louis.

Charles Lindbergh was born in Detroit to a lawyer and a chemistry teacher. It is believed that Lindbergh was fascinated by aviation from early age and his enthusiasm increased during his engineering studies at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he started in 1920Lindbergh entered a Lincoln, Nebraska flying school in 1922 and first served as a mechanic, wingwalker, and parachute jumper. It is believed that his first solo flight was accomplished about one year later. Charles Lindbergh managed to graduate first in his class at the U.S. Army flying school, San Antonio and became the first air mail pilot between Chicago and St. Louis. Already in 1919, the New York hotel businessman Raymond Orteig offered $25.000 for the first non-stop flight between New York and Paris, and Lindbergh decided to challenge a group of businessmen in St. Louis to back him in an attempt to win the prize. The plane was named Spirit of St. Louis and was designed and constructed with Lindbergh’s help by Ryan Airlines of San Diego.

In May 1927, Charles Lindbergh took off from New York City to France’s capital city. It is believed that he packed only a few sandwiches, water and most importantly maps and charts. Lindbergh refused to take a parachute and radio with him in order to save fuel. The Spirit of St. Louis was a single-engine monoplane and most people believed it not to be capable of crossing the  Atlantic Ocean, as most long distance pilots favored multi-engine planes. However, after 33.5 hours and 3600 miles, Charles Lindbergh set his plane down at Le Bourget Field near Paris.

The pilot’s fame came almost instantly. He received the Congressional Medal of Honor, was congratulated by many countries, and made a U.S. tour in the Spirit of St. Louis to promote the commercialization of aviation after his heroic flight. He also made several trips to Latin American countries to promote aviation and met his future wife Anne Morrow, the daughter of the American ambassador. Of course, he taught his wife how to fly and she became the first known American woman to earn the glider pilot’s license. She became not only Lindbergh’s partner in life but also his co-pilot, radio operator and navigator.

It is further assumed that Lindbergh was responsible for inspecting the status of aviation in European countries and he convinced the U.S. government to strengthen their air capability due to Germany’s increasing air power. However, he did not support the entry of the U.S. into the European war. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Lindbergh served as a technical advisor as well as test pilot for United Aircraft. During his active years in aviation, Lindbergh also chaired the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics and authored several books, which are also considered successful. The Spirit of St. Louis was probably his most successful work. The autobiographical by Charles Lindbergh focused on the events leading up to and including his 1927 solo trans-Atlantic flight in the Spirit of St. Louis. It was published in 1953, and won a Pulitzer Prize one year later.

At yovisto you may learn more about Lindbergh’s Flight and Return.

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