Charles Lindbergh’s Daring Solo Flight across the Atlantic
The “Roaring ’20s” was a fast-paced, dizzying time of excitement and possibilities. Peace and prosperity had returned after the devastation of WWI, and new inventions and machinery were pushing frontiers and expanding former boundaries. A bold young pilot named Charles Lindbergh epitomized the spirit of the times, and he dazzled the world when he landed his plane in Paris after completing history’s first solo trans-Atlantic flight.
The 25-year-old airmail pilot was unknown when he flew his now-famous airplane “Spirit of St. Louis” from Roosevelt Field in Long Island, New York, to Le Bourget Field outside of Paris, France, in 33½ hours on May 20-21, 1927. He was after the Orteig Prize, a $25,000 reward that had been available since 1919 to the first daring pilot to fly nonstop between New York and Paris. In the intervening years several attempts had been made, all unsuccessful, and six famous pilots had died. Just 12 days before Lindbergh took off on his successful flight, two French war heroes—pilot Charles Nungesser and navigator Francois Coli—departed Paris in pursuit of the Orteig Prize, but they and their plane disappeared forever after flying over the coast of Ireland.
The whole world seemed to embrace Lindbergh’s feat, and his daring and confidence were praised and rewarded. As a reserve Army officer he was awarded the Medal of Honor, and received the Distinguished Flying Cross from President Coolidge. He achieved wealth and lasting fame, and the unknown airmail pilot was obscure no longer.
Lindbergh’s historic solo flight across the Atlantic was reported in this copyrighted article, published by the Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Georgia) on the front page of its May 22, 1927, issue:
Lindbergh’s Paris Trip Makes Him World Hero
Youthful Airman Wildly Acclaimed after Spanning Atlantic in Non-Stop Dash
A new epoch in aviation has been inaugurated.
Charlie Lindbergh, of Little Falls, Minn., landed at Le Bourget, France, at 5:15 p.m. eastern daylight time yesterday, in one record-smashing jump from Roosevelt Field, New York.
“Well, here we are” was his greeting to the enthusiasm-maddened crowd.
Unaccompanied, Lindbergh drove his plane, “The Spirit of St. Louis,” over the nearly four thousand mile air track, clipping about two hours and a half off the most optimistic time allowance.
The world’s imagination was fired by his exploit.
Spontaneous celebrations in scores of cities both here and abroad lasted far into the night; President Coolidge and executives of other nations flashed their congratulations and these were supplemented by the thousands from other individuals publicly prominent.
At Detroit, Charles’ mother relaxed her steadily maintained attitude of silent confidence and through tears of joy declared his victory “was all that mattered.”
Paris, May 21.—(By the Associated Press.)—Captain Charles A. Lindbergh, the young American aviator, who hopped off from New York yesterday morning all alone in his monoplane, arrived in Paris tonight, safe and sound as everyone hoped he would.
The sandy haired son of the middle west dropped down out of the darkness at Le Bourget Flying Field, a few miles from Paris, at 10:21 o’clock tonight (5:21 p.m. New York time), only 33 ½ hours after leaving Long Island—the first man in history to go from New York to Paris without changing his seat.
To the young American it was seemingly merely the achievement of an ambition. To Paris, to France, to America, to the world, his landing tonight made him the greatest of heroes mankind had produced since the air became a means of travel.
A crowd of at least 25,000 surrounded his plane, the “Spirit of St. Louis,” when it came to earth after its epochal voyage from the new world to the old.
The airman was lifted from the seat, where for two days and a night he sat fixed, guiding his plane over land and sea, and for 40 minutes he was hardly able to talk or do anything else, except let himself be carried along by a mass of men made delirious with joy at his achievement.
Never has an aviator of any nation, even king or ruler, had a greater or more spontaneous welcome from the hearts of the common people of France. The very recklessness of his endeavor, as it appeared, appealed to the quick emotional imagination of Frenchmen, and they were quick to respond with everything their own hearts could give.
All ties of nationalism were forgotten by the Le Bourget throng. They saw in Lindbergh only a man who had brilliantly gambled with death and won. There was regret, for Nungesser and Coli, and regret, too, that the daring Frenchmen had not been the first. But there was no bitterness in their greeting of the American winner.
Washington, May 21.—(A.P.)—President Doumergue of France, in a message of congratulations to President Coolidge tonight, viewed the successful trans-Atlantic flight of Captain Lindbergh as the dream of Nungesser and Coli come true, and as bringing about the aerial union of the United States and France.
“All Frenchmen,” he said, “unreservedly admire his courage and rejoice in his success. I congratulate you most heartily in the name of the government of the republic and of the whole country.”
In reply, President Coolidge thanked the French president for his message and said that while he and the entire country rejoiced in Lindbergh’s success, it had not forgotten to share France’s sorrow in the loss of Nungesser and Coli.
In his cablegram, President Doumergue said:
“On the morrow of the attempt of our aviators whose misfortune was so keenly felt by the kindly hearts of your countrymen, Charles Lindbergh made true the dream of Nungesser and Coli and by his audacious flight brought about the aerial union of the United States and France. All Frenchmen unreservedly admire his courage and rejoice in his success. I congratulate you most heartily in the name of the government of the republic and of the whole country.”
President Coolidge’s reply follows:
“I thank you for your cordial message which I share with the American people. I rejoice in the success of the young man who so courageously set forth on his lonely flight but neither I nor the people of the United States forget to share in the sorrow of France in the recent loss of your two brave aviators. It is largely due to the genius of France that aviation has progressed so rapidly and as it brings us closer as measured by hours, so it must increase our heritage of sympathy and understanding.”
Some Statistics on Lindbergh’s Flight
A few statistics on the remarkable achievement of the Pride of America, Captain Charles A. Lindbergh, who is today receiving the accolade of the world:
To truly appreciate Captain Lindbergh’s accomplishment one must go behind the great and unprecedented “hop” from Roosevelt Field, N.Y., to Le Bourget Field, Paris, France. It begins at San Diego, Cal., where the intrepid flier really started his world flight, thence to St. Louis, Mo., a distance of 1,600 miles, and thence to New York, a distance of 950 miles. The total distance of the continental flight of 2,550 miles was made in 21 hours flying time.
Then came the great “hop” from New York to Paris, a distance of 3,600 miles, 1,900 of which was over open seas, in 33 ½ hours.
The sum total results are as follows: From San Diego, Cal., to Paris, France, distance in miles 6,150; number of stops, two (St. Louis and New York); actual flying hours, 55. Average miles per hour, 111. These figures are close approximations.
Sidelights on N.Y. to Paris Flight
Paris, May 22.—(AP)—(Sunday)—Before Captain Charles A. Lindbergh went to sleep early this morning, after his New York to Paris flight, he asked Ambassador Herrick and others who have taken charge of him to let him go back to his plane in order to “show the people how the windows work.”
“Never mind your old windows,” said the ambassador, “come and get a rest at the embassy.”
Just before he retired Lindbergh had a bracing cup of coffee, which for a few seconds brought him out of his sleepiness enough to talk a little of his flight.
“It was not such a bad trip,” he said. “I ran into some snow and ice in the early part of the trip; the rest wasn’t so bad. The biggest trouble was in staying awake. I went to sleep several times but was lucky enough to wake myself up right away. I was afraid of the sand man all the time.”
Immediately Captain Charles Lindbergh landed in Paris tonight he became a wealthy young man. In addition to the $25,000 Orteig prize, his feat opened the magic doors of stage, screen and advertising, which means fat contracts for public appearances and use of his name on trade goods.
S. L. Rothafel (“Roxy”) announced this afternoon that he had cabled his Paris representative, authorizing him to offer Captain Lindbergh $25,000 for a week’s appearance at the Roxy theater.
Aberdeen, Wash., May 21— (AP)—Intensely excited at the news of Captain Charles Lindbergh’s safe arrival in Paris, Richard Barrett, 60 years old, dropped dead in the street here this afternoon as he reached for a newspaper extra.
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