Charles Lindbergh


Shortly after Charles Lindbergh landed, he was swarmed by 25,000
Parisians who carried the wearied pilot on their shoulders. They were rejoicing
that Charles Lindbergh, the American aviator who flew the first transatlantic
flight, had just landed at Le Bourget field in France. Having just completed
what some people called an impossible feat, he was instantly a well-known
international hero. Despite his pro-German stance during World War II, Charles
Lindbergh is also an American hero. A record of his happiness and success exists
in the material form of his plane hanging in the Smithsonian Institute; however,
much of Lindbergh\'s life was clouded by turmoil. The life of Charles Lindbergh
though best remembered for his heroic flight across the Atlantic, was marred by
the kidnapping of his baby and his fall from favor with the American public
following his pro-German stance during the 1930\'s. Charles Lindbergh, the famous
American aviator, was born February 4, 1902 in Detroit, Michigan. As a boy he
loved the outdoors and frequently hunted. He maintained a good relationship
with his parents "who trusted him and viewed him as a very responsible child".
His father, for whom young Charles chauffeured as a child, served in the U.S.
Congress from 1907 to 1917. Lindbergh\'s love of machinery was evident by the age
of 14; "He could take apart a automobile engine and repair it". Attending the
University of Wisconsin, Lindbergh studied engineering for two years. Although
he was an excellent student, his real interest was in flying. As a result, in
1922 he switched to aviation school. Planes became a center of his life after
his first flight. His early flying career involved flying stunt planes at fair
and air shows. Later, in 1925 he piloted the U. S. Mail route from St. Louis to
Chicago. On one occasion while flying this route his engine failed and he did a
nosedive towards the ground. Recovering from the nosedive he straightened the
plane successfully and landed the plane unharmed. This skill would later be
invaluable when he was forced to skim ten feet above the waves during his famous
transatlantic flight.
As early as 1919 Lindbergh was aware of a prize being offered by the
Franco-American philanthropist Raymond B. Orteig of New York City. Orteig
offered 25, 000 dollars to the individual who completed the first non-stop
transatlantic flight from New York to Paris. Ryan Air manufactured his single
engine monoplane, the Spirit of St. Louis, so named because many of his
investors were from that city. In preparation for the flight, Lindbergh flew the
Spirit of St. Louis from Ryan Airfield in St. Louis, non-stop to Roosevelt Field
outside New York City. After arriving he waited six days to begin his flight to
Paris, due to inclement weather. Although he was scheduled to attend the
ballet on the evening of May 19, 1927, word came from the airfield that there
was a large break in the weather coming across the Atlantic and that he was
clear to fly first thing in the morning. As a precaution Lindbergh instructed
one of his friends to stand guard outside the room where Lindbergh attempted to
sleep that night. Unfortunately, with all the thoughts going through his head,
sleep was an impossibility. Rising at 4:00 am, accompanied by a police escort,
Lindbergh was driven to Roosevelt Field. Dressed in a brown flight suit complete
with headpiece and goggles, Lindbergh climbed into his single engine monoplane
and began his destiny with history; the first non-stop transatlantic flight.
During the flight of 33 hours and 32 minutes, Lindbergh ate five chicken
sandwiches and consumed a one-liter bottle of water. It is not documented what
Lindbergh did to occupy his time during the flight, but it is obvious based upon
the length of the flight that staying awake must have been a major concern. In
a famous film recounting this flight, speculation was that Lindbergh stayed
awake by watching the activity of a housefly trapped in the cabin. Later, based
upon his excess fuel level, Lindbergh considered continuing his flight to Rome,
despite the fact that he had already traveled 5,800 km. Fearing it was too
dangerous, he opted to land in Paris as planned. When Lindbergh approached Le
Bourget Airport near Paris he noticed the headlights of many cars. Amazed that
so many Parisians had come out to the field to greet him, Lindbergh anxiously
deplaned. In their excitement some of the crowd tore pieces of the plane\'s outer
shell off as souvenirs. "Lindbergh\'s achievement won the enthusiasm and
acclaim of the world, and he was greeted as a hero in Europe