Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Lindbergh Flight


The Lindbergh Flight


"Lindy" Conquers the Atlantic

Charles Lindbergh was only 25 and virtually unknown when, in 1927, he became the first man to fly solo and nonstop across the Atlantic. His achievement created a world-wide sensation and turned Lindbergh overnight into one of the most durable heroes America has ever produced. Lindbergh and several other pilots­ including Commander Richard E. Byrd, the explorer were racing to become the first to fly the ocean and claim the $25,000 prize offered by Raymond Orteig, a wealthy American restaurateur and hotel owner. The other pilots planned to use fairly large, multi engine aircraft, with crews of two or three. Their planes were stuffed with supplies, and some carried crude radios. But Lindbergh decided to fly alone in a tiny, single engine plane of his own design, which he named "The Spirit of St. Louis." His cockpit was so cramped that he needed a mirror to read his compass, and a large gas tank he had installed in front of the cockpit forced him to use a periscope in order to see ahead. All he took with him were a few maps, the engine and navigation logs for the plane, five sandwiches, and a gallon of water. So determined was he to devote every possible ounce of payload to fuel that he didn't even take a parachute.

Lindbergh took off (after a sleepless night) from Roosevelt Field on Long Island, just east of New York City, at 7:52 a.m. on May 20, 1927. He flew all that day, through the night, and most of the following day. At one point, ice formed on the wings, almost causing the plane to crash into the ocean, and Lindbergh constantly fought to stay awake. Finally, at 5:21 p.m. (10:21 p.m. Paris time ), May 21, he landed at Le Bourget airport outside of Paris, France. He had been at the controls for 33 hours, 29 minutes and 30 seconds, and he had covered 3,610 miles (6,700 Km.) the longest flight on record at that time. It was the most important news story of the era. Police at the Paris airport barely succeeded in protecting Lindbergh's plane from souvenir hunters. (As it is, someone stole the engine and navigation logs, which have never been recovered.) The cheering crowds at the Paris airport almost tore the young American hero apart, and in New York a giant ticker tape parade in his honor dumped an estimated 1,800 tons of paper on Manhattan's streets. People named streets after him, as well as whole towns, a mountain, a sandwich, and even a dance called the "Lindy Hop." Shy and handsome, Lindbergh was a hero everywhere, to everyone.

Illustration: Charles Lindbergh with his plane, "Spirit of St. Louis," Curtiss Field, N. Y.
© 1979. Panarizon Publishing Corp. USA
Printed in Italy
Photo: St. Louis Globe-Democrat

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