- A young man announcing Lindbergh’s successful flight in St. Louis, Missouri, with a pennant on his Model “T” Ford. Benjamin Ames photo.
For something, a little different today, the photo above sums up an extraordinary feat: Charles Lindbergh was the first aviator to fly nonstop from New York to Paris and collect the twenty-five thousand dollar prize established for doing so eight years earlier. Six men had already died in previous attempts.
The skilled aviator took a different approach then others did by using a single engine aircraft he could fly by himself. By doing so, the saved weight increased the fuel efficiency enough to allow for a four-thousand mile flying range which left him with more than enough gasoline to reach Paris.
The specially built and equipped airplane was constructed by the Ryan Airline Company of San Diego, California, with Lindbergh’s input, in the record time of only sixty days. The Spirt of St. Louis, a modified Ryan M-2 design needed five fuel tanks of 450 gallons total capacity for the flight. This required Lindbergh to use a periscope to see directly forward, as one of the tanks took up most of the entire front of the plane ahead of the side windows.
What he and others accomplished to even get the plane ready in time, followed by setting a new transcontinental record on the way to the starting line was remarkable. Throwing caution to the wind the confident pilot and his plane left under less than favorable conditions in New York, and 33.5 hours and 3,600 miles later touched down after a difficult flight to Paris.
Even if you know the tale, it is well worth revisiting it at PBS to learn more and also to watch at least the first ten minutes of the Lindbergh Story above also by PPS, filled with excellent period footage.