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Charles Lindbergh, one of the world’s aviation heroes and an American hero, was the first person to make a nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic. He was born on February 4, 1902, in Detroit. He went to school at the University of Wisconsin for two years, but dropped out to attend a flying school in Nebraska. He first started flying in 1922. Within four years, he was piloting a mail plane between St. Louis and Chicago.
In 1919 Raymond Orteig from France offered $25,000 to the first person to cross the Atlantic nonstop between Paris and New York. His offer was set to expire in five years, but nobody even tried. In 1926, he extended his offer another five years. By this time technology was to the point where a flight across the Atlantic might actually be possible. Lindbergh was one that thought it could be done.
After securing $15,000 from the head of the St. Louis Chamber of Commerce, Lindbergh started searching for a plane to make the transatlantic journey. Rather then go with a multi-engine plane like many other aviators were going with, he felt that it only increased the chance of an engine failing. He also wanted the plane to weigh as little as possible, thus increasing the flight range. This also meant he would be going alone.
By 1927, Ryan Airlines offered to build him a single-engine plane that met his specifications for only $6,000, excluding an engine. Lindbergh met with them and despite the unimpressive headquarters, he walked away impressed. Lindbergh wanted the plane done in two months, rather then the three months Ryan Airlines had wanted, but after much overtime, they finished the Spirit of St. Louis by the deadline.
Because it was being built customized for Lindbergh, the single goal of the Spirit of St. Louis was to reach Paris. Wingspan was increased to hold the extra fuel tanks that would be needed. This would give it a maximum range of over 4,000 miles, more then enough to cross the Atlantic and reach Paris.
To help keep the plane’s weight down, Lindbergh cut out everything not absolutely necessary. No radio, parachute, gas gauges, or even navigation lights were included. He wore special lightweight boots, and his maps included only the reference points he would need. Even his chair was made out of light wicker, instead of the usual heavy leather.
When completed at the end of April, 1927, the Spirit of St.
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Just two days before he was scheduled to leave, reports reached Lindbergh that several Frenchmen had left Paris for New York. Fortuently for Lindbergh and Ryan Airlines, the two were never seen again after leaving. He took off from Roosevelt Field in New York at 7:52 AM on May 20, 1927. His flight took a total of 33 hours and 32 minutes. He landed at Le Bourget Airport near Pairs at 10:22 PM local time on May 20, 1927. He had crossed over thirty six hundred miles in less then 33.5 hours. A hero was born, and a plane made a legend.
Charles A. Lindbergh’s achievement won much enthusiasm and acclaim from all over the world. He was later made a colonel in the U.S. Air Service Reserve, and a technical adviser to commercial airlines. He made goodwill tours all over the world.
In 1932, however, his luck ran out with the kidnapping and murder of his first child. A German carpenter was found guilty and executed. Lindbergh left America to escape the publicity and moved to Europe. He studied the air forces of various countries, and accepted a decoration from Adolf Hitler and praised the German air force as superior to any other European country. After returning to the U.S., he toured the country making anti-war speeches, but received much animadversion as being pro-German and had to resign from the air corps reserve. During World War II he was a consultant to aircraft manufactures. He died on August 26, 1974, in Maui, Hawaii.