Flying Into History

After a number of other pilots had died or been injured in unsuccessful attempts to win the prize, Lindbergh was finally ready to try his own luck. On May 20, 1927, after a cross-country shakedown flight from San Diego to New York with one stop in St. Louis, Lindbergh was ready to make his bid for a page in the history books. Too nervous to sleep for the previous 24 hours, he embarked upon his 3,600-mile, 33%hour battle with fatigue, rough air, dangerous ice accumulations on his wings, and the nearly impossible task of accurately navigating with nothing but a compass, a clock, snippets of a map, and a gut sense of how the wind was blowing. Still, when he crossed the Irish coast 27 hours into the flight, he was only three miles off his intended course!

Flying Into History

At about 10 P. M. Paris time, more than 33 hours after he left Long Island’s Roosevelt Field, Lindbergh circled the Eiffel Tower and headed toward Le Bourget airport and history. Radio broadcasts had been tracking the aviator’s record-setting flight, and his progress was followed across the British Isles and rural France. By the time he circled for a landing at Le Bourget, some 200,000 wildly cheering Parisians had gathered, presaging what was to become Lindbergh’s legacy—worldwide fame that he would never shed, no matter how profound his personal tragedies nor how offensive his views.

After his landing in Paris, “Slim” Lindbergh was ferried back to the United States in oceanliner luxury. He received medals and honors from a laundry list of nations, and then set about popularizing the budding airline industry.

Flying Into History

Plane Talk

Lindbergh became adept at putting hit fame to use for a good cause. For example, in the mid-1930s, after meeting Massachusetts rocket pioneer Robert H. Goddard, he persuaded the Guggenheim family to fund Goddard’s groundbreaking research. Later, after the Japanese bombingof Pearl Harbor, Lindbergh threw himself into the government’s war effort by making recruiting tours, teaching pilots how to squeeze more performance out of their planes, and flying in combat himself.

After his record – setting flight, Lindbergh traveled the world lecturing on the future of flying, which belonged to passenger airlines. He was hired as a consultant to both TWA—which immediately christened itself “The Lindbergh Line”—and Pan American Airways to scout out airline flight routes. But his greatest contribution was in the publicity he brought to civil aviation and the airlines.

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