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The Spirit of St. Louis is probably the most famous aircraft in aviation history. In 1927 this high wing Ryan monoplane carried Charles A. Lindbergh on the first solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean from the New York City to Paris.
Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis was constructed by the Ryan Company in its small San Diego, California, factory in just 60 days and at a cost of a little over $10,500, including a 220-horsepower Wright "Whirlwind" radial engine and instruments. A modified, single-seat version of Ryan's standard five-passenger aircraft, the Spirit of St. Louis was designed by Ryan's chief aeronautical engineer, Donald Hall--with a good deal of help from Lindbergh himself.
The aircraft has a wingspan of 46 feet. Its length is 27 feet, 8 inches, and its height 9 feet, 10 inches. Its maximum air speed was about 120 mph, and its range --fully loaded with 450 gallons of aviation fuel --was an astonishing 4,200 miles. The Spirit of St. Louis, an exceptionally strong aircraft, was capable of carrying aloft one and a half times its own weight. Like Lindbergh himself, it was built lean, sparse, uncomplicated and for just one purpose--to fly nonstop from New York to Paris.
The Spirit of St. Louis, however, was not an easy airplane to fly. For one thing, it has no forward shield, that space is taken by huge fuel tank. Lindbergh's only line of sight was through two small windows to the side. For another thing, the plane had a tendency to be nose heavy when fully loaded, and its wings lost much of their efficiency in turbulent air. Finally, the plane was not equipped with a radio, an important navigational aid for a long flight.
Despite these deficiencies the Spirit of St. Louis performed its historic mission magnificently. It carried Lindbergh from Roosevelt Field on Long Island to Le Bourget Field near Paris--a distance of 3,648 miles--in 33 hours and 30 minutes. Greeted by an enormous throng of well-wishes, Lindbergh became an international celebrity.
The Spirit of St. Louis was the only aircraft of its kind ever built, and only
one man ever flew it. Fittingly, it occupies a place of honor today in the vast National
Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
The preceding information was extracted from the pamphlet,
"The Great Airplanes Sterling Silver Miniature Collection", published by The Franklin Mint, 1979.
Permission was granted to ALLSTAR by The Franklin Mint to use the preceding materials.
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Updated: March 12, 2004