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'The Lone Eagle'
Born Detroit, Michigan
February 4, 1902 - August 26, 1974
Charles Augustus Lindbergh became interested in flying while a mechanical engineering student at the University of Wisconsin, leaving the school in 1922 to devote his life to aviation. Working his way through flight school, he purchased a war surplus Curtiss Jenny in 1923 and taught himself to fly. After a year of barnstorming, he entered the Army Air Service Flying School and received his pilot wings in 1925. Returning to civilian aviation, more barnstorming and instructing, he became an Air Mail pilot in 1926. His route from St. Louis to Chicago provided him an accelerated accumulation of flying experience at night and in adverse weather.
It was on such a flight, on a cold clear night in the cockpit of the DeHavilland mailplane that he conceived the daring plan of a solo trans-Atlantic flight, and the specifications for an aircraft capable of such a mission. Securing the financial backing of a group of St. Louis businessmen in 1927, he selected the Ryan Airlines Company in San Diego to build the Spirit of St. Louis. "Lindy's" specifications were well conceived, deliberately lacking in comfort and personal safety to meet the overriding need for maximum fuel capacity. He personally participated in the design and fabrication of his aircraft by day, and taught himself navigation by night.
On his arrival at the Ryan plant on February 23rd, not even a design for his plane existed. Yet, 77 days later, on May 10th, Lindy flew The Spirit of St. Louis eastward on the first leg of his epic flight. Listen to a clip describing his flight here
In the early hours of May 20th, a cold and rainy dawn broke over Roosevelt Field on Long Island. Lindbergh, having already been awake more than 30 hours, donned the heavy flying suit and climbed into the cramped cockpit of The Spirit. The grass runway was sodden and the takeoff of the heavily loaded ship difficult. Hours of the flight were spent flying up the East Coast of the U.S. and Canada at low altitude. In the eighth hour, came landfall in Nova Scotia. Sleep, his enemy, plagued him throughout the flight.
An eager world followed the progress of The Spirit and its indomitable pilot who had already been given the name "Lone Eagle." Flying by instruments alone, he battled to stay awake. Navigation and fuel management tasks were constant. Dawn came in the 23rd hour, and with it new vigor, but the struggle to stay awake continued. He made landfall over the foam lined shore of Ireland, within 3 miles of the planned course.
The English Channel and then the Coast of France appeared as night fell again. A glow in the darkness ahead became the City of Paris. The Spirit of St Louis touched down at Le Bourget aerodrome at 10:21 PM local time, May 21, 1927. The first non-stop flight* across the mighty Atlantic was completed in 33 hours and 29 minutes.
Charles Lindbergh became the heroic name of the age. No event of aero history so captured the admiration of all men and inspired so many to follow him into the skies. The rest of his life was devoted to the development of commercial aviation, medical research, technical assistance to the military in World War II, and aviation consulting.
Invested 1965 in the International Aerospace Hall of Fame
From "These We Honor," The International Hall of Fame;
The San Diego Aerospace Museum, San Diego, CA. 1984
*Lindbergh made the first solo non-stop flight going from west to east. Mr. Robert Allen, one of our website visitors, rightly points out that the first non-stop Atlantic crossing was made eight years earlier, on June 14-15, 1919, when John Alcock and Arthur Whitten-Brown of Great Britain flew a Vickers Vimy non-stop from Newfoundland to Ireland. You can read more about the Golden Age of Aviation on our wings4 page.
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Updated: March 21, 2005