One Man, One Small Plane, and a famous Trip Across the Atlantic Ocean
by Helen Zhang, age 15
Six people died trying to cross the Atlantic Ocean before Charles Lindbergh made his solo, nonstop flight in 1927. Lindbergh, a former UW-Madison attendee survived his flight and made history. He also gained instant fame, and became an overnight legend.
Charles Lindbergh was born in Detroit, Michigan, the only child of Evangeline and Charles Lindbergh Sr. He attended the University of Wisconsin for a little more than a year before enrolling in flight school at the Nebraska Standard Aircraft Corporation. Afterwards, Lindbergh worked as a mail courier and flew nearly 2,000 hours, facing horrible weather, moonless nights, and other dangerous conditions.
“I had been attracted to aviation by its adventure, not its safety, by the love of wind and height and wings,” Lindbergh said.
Lindbergh accomplished his cross-Atlantic flight at the age of 25. A 3,610-mile non-stop flight from New York to Paris was a feat that many thought was impossible. His plane, named the Spirit of St. Louis, was only 27-feet 9-inches long. On this tiny aircraft, Lindbergh carried 3000 pounds of supplies, mostly fuel, but no radio or parachute.
En route to Paris, Lindbergh had to battle the forces of nature: heavy rain, thick fog, and bumpy turbulence. These conditions, added to his own fatigue, made for a difficult trip.
Precisely 33 hours, 30 minutes, and 29.9 seconds after leaving New York, Lindbergh landed at Le Bourget aerodrome in Paris. Upon his return to the United States two weeks later, he was greeted by 40 planes, two blimps, and 4.5 million people. Lindbergh had become an international hero.
The story of Lindbergh’s flight has ties to Madison. Three months after his historic flight, on August 22, 1927, Lindbergh and his plane visited Madison. He was persuaded by Don Anderson from the Wisconsin State Journal. He later gave an address at Camp Randall to an audience of 20,000 people.
Lindbergh also made news for being accused as a Nazi sympathizer after accepting a German decoration, and when his baby son was kidnapped and later murdered.
After his death in 1974, almost half a century after his famous flight, Lindbergh remains a hero to aviators everywhere in the world. His legend and popularity will never fade away. Lindbergh made a lasting impact on the history of the United States and paved the way for future engineering and aeronautical accomplishments.
[Source: LIFE: The Greatest Adventures of All Time, The Progressive, www.charleslindbergh.com]