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...
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