The flight of Charles A. Lindbergh was actually three phases. The preflight that was step of obtaining the plane, the arrangements of sponsors, and making a list of land marks. Probably the most important phase out of all was the actual flight from New York to Paris, France. The final phase would consist of a man turning into a hero when he finally reaches Paris.
The preflight arrangements for Charles A. Lindbergh
’s flight began in early 1927. Charles A. Lindbergh presented his proposal to Knight, Bixby, and other St. Louis
businesspersons whom were impressed with Lindbergh’s confidence and agreed to sponsor his flight. Lindbergh had setup a $15,000 budget and $2,000 of which was Lindberghs. A name, the Spirit of St. Louis, was established. Lindbergh was to choose the plane and decide on all other aspects of the proposed flight. According to Lindbergh, a single-engine plane, rather than a multiengine plane increased the chance of success. His theory was the less weight, the more fuel, the greater range. The experts would say that a solo flight across the Atlantic was simply suicide. The burden on the pilot was considered too great—he would have to stay awake for over thirty hours, enduring constant stresses. Immediately, Lindbergh began searching for the right plane at the right price. He contacted a number of aircraft companies. Some did not respond and some turned him down. Things were not looking good for Lindbergh. In early February 1927, the Ryan Airlines Corporation of San Diego, California, had responded within twenty-four hours of receiving Lindbergh’s telegram regarding a plane for his proposed transatlantic flight. Yes, they could produce a plane that could fly nonstop from New York to Paris. It would cost $6,000 not including the engine, and would take three months to build. The Ryan workers worked on the Spirit of St. Louis morning, noon, and night, seven days a week. Voluntary overtime became a normal operating procedure, and work on most other planes had nearly stopped. After meeting with the company’s president, they decided to modify an existing Ryan model by outfitting the plane with extra fuel tanks and increasing the wing area, thus would give the plane a maximum range of 4,000 miles, more than enough to reach Paris. In the picture to the right, it shows how the main fuel tank in the front of the Spirit of St. Louis blocks Lindbergh’s forward vision. Designed to fit Lindbergh perfectly, the plane utilizes every inch of space. You would think that a person would want to see straight forward, but in Lindbergh’s case he said that many mail pilots would actually paint their forward window black to cut back on glare. Although he tried to keep things as light as possible, such as, the shoes that he had designed especially for the flight, he did bring items which he considered sensible: an inflatable rubber raft, a hunting knife, a ball of string, two fishhooks, a large needle, a small flashlight, matches, and a hacksaw blade. On the plane his instrument panel included: a speed and drift indicator, an airspeed indicator, a tachometer, an altimeter and an oil pressure gauge, an earth inductor compass, bank and turn indicators, a temperature gauge, and a clock. There was also a cut-down wicker chair for him to sit on. The plane was equipped with a reliable 220-horsepower, air-cooled, nine-cylinder Wright J-5C “Whirlwind'; engine. On May 10, 1927, Charles Lindbergh
, piloting the Spirit of St. Louis, took off from San Diego headed for St. Louis, en route to New York and Paris. Lindbergh set records for the San Diego-St. Louis leg, and on May 12, 1927, landed at Curtis Field, Long Island, setting a record for the fastest transcontinental flight.
On May 20, 1927 Lindbergh put on his flight helmet, lowered his goggles, gave the signal to start the propeller and release the wheel chocks, opened the engine full-throttle, and guided the plane down the muddy runway as workers pushed. The Spirit of St. Louis labored to extricate itself from the muddy runway, passed the point of no return, lifted off, cleared the wires by only twenty feet, and was airborne at 7:52 A.M. At 8:52 A.M. his altitude is 500 ft. with a wind velocity of 0 mph. He is currently over Rhode Island. Except for some turbulence, the flight over Long Island Sound and Connecticut was uneventful. He only has 3,500 mile to Paris. At 9:52 A.M. Boston lies behind the plane, Cape Cod is to the right; his altitude is 150 ft. Airspeed is 107 mph. 10:52 A.M. There is a breeze blowing from the NW at 10 mph. Lindbergh begins to feel tired, although only four hours have passed since leaving New York. He descends and flies within ten feet of the water to help keep his mind clear. 11:52 A.M. He is currently four hundred miles from New York. His altitude is 200 ft over Nova Scotia. After flying over the Gulf of Maine, the Spirit of St. Louis is only six miles off course. 12:52 P.M. Wind velocity has increased to 30 mph. Lindbergh flies over a mountain range and clouds soon appear and thicken as the Spirit of St. Louis approaches a storm front. 2:52 P.M. His current altitude is 600 ft. His air speed is 96 mph and his course takes him away from the edge of the storm. 3:52 P.M. The eastern edge of Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island lies below. In minutes, Lindbergh will be over water again. Although it is only the afternoon of the first day, Lindbergh struggles to stay awake. 5:52 P.M. He is currently flying along the southern coast of Newfoundland. 7:52 P.M. Stars begin to appear in the sky as night falls. The sea below is completely obscured by fog. Lindbergh climbs from an altitude of 800 ft to 7500 ft to stay above the quickly rising clouds. 8:52 P.M. The cloud that first appeared as fog is still below. A thunderhead looms ahead. Lindbergh flies into the towering cloud, then turns back after noticing ice forming on the plane. 10:52 P.M. Lindbergh’s fight to keep his eyelids open continues. To keep warm, Lindbergh considers closing the plane’s windows, but then decides that he needs the cold, fresh air to help stay awake. 11:52 P.M. Lindbergh is five hundred miles from Newfoundland. The air has warmed and there is no ice remaining on the plane. 1:52 A.M. Lindbergh is halfway to Paris. Eighteen hours into the flight, instead of feeling as though he should celebrate, Lindbergh feels only dread, eighteen long hours to go. 2:52 A.M. Daylight is among Lindbergh because he has traveled through several time zones, dawn comes earlier. The light revives the pilot for a while, but the drowsiness returns. He even falls asleep, but only for a moment. 4:52 A.M. Lindbergh continually falls asleep with his eyes open, then awakens seconds, possibly minutes, later. The pilot begins to hallucinate. Finally, after flying for hours in or above the fog, the skies begin to clear. 7:52 A.M. Twenty-four hours have elapsed since taking off from New York. Lindbergh does not feel as tired. 9:52 A.M. Several Small fishing boats are spotted from Lindbergh’s plane. Lindbergh circles and flies by closely, hoping to yell for directions, but no anglers appear on the boats’ decks. 10:52 A.M. Local time is 3:00 P.M. Lindbergh spots land to his left and veers toward it. Referring to his charts, he identifies the land to be the southern tip of Ireland. The Spirit of St. Louis is 2.5 hours ahead of schedule and less than three miles off course. 12:52 P.M. wanting to reach the French coast in daylight; Lindbergh increases air speed to 110 mph. The English coast appears ahead and Lindbergh is now wide-awake. 2:52 P.M. The sun sets as the Spirit of St. Louis flies over the coastal French town of Cherbourg. Lindbergh is only two hundred miles to Paris. 4:22 P.M. the Spirit of St. Louis touches down at the Le Bourget Aerodrome, Paris, France. Local time is 10:22 P.M. Total flight time is 30 hrs, 30 min. Charles Lindbergh had not slept in 55 hours.
At 10:22 P.M. Paris time, Charles Lindbergh touched down ahead of schedule. He thought that some French aviators and, perhaps, a handful of reporters might be on hand to meet him. He did not have a visa, so he was a little worried about customs. He had even brought letters of introduction, which he thought might help. To his amazement, between 20,000 and 100,000 French men and women had come to Le Bourget Aerodrome to welcome him. Accurate reports of his progress since Ireland had helped swell the size of the crowd. Thousand broke through the barricades and rushed onto the landing field. Thousands more, still in their cars, clogged the roads leading to the airport. When he climbed out of the cockpit he was taken by the crowd and held aloft. Two French flyers were able to get him released, but only after another American had been mistaken for him. Lindbergh’s helmet had somehow gotten on the other man’s head, and he was being dragged away by the crowd. Charles Lindbergh was insisting that something be done about his plane before he agreed to leave the field. He was shocked when he saw the Spirit of St. Louis. The crowds had ripped holes in the fuselage in order to take home souvenirs. What angered him even more was that the navigation log he had kept during his flight had been stolen. Lindbergh slept for the next ten hours. In the morning, Lindbergh and the ambassador stood on the balcony and greeted the jubilant crowd that had gathered in front of the embassy. Lindbergh had planned to fly back to the U.S. via Europe, Siberia, Alaska, and Canada, thus completing a trip around the world. However, he reluctantly gave in to pressure from the ambassador to accept President Calvin Coolidge’s invitation to return aboard the cruiser USS Memphis. The president presented him with the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Congressional Medal of Honor, and the post office issued an airmail stamp in his honor.