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Charles Lindbergh with Spirit of St. Louis
Source: Library of Congress
- Occupation: Aviator
- Born: February 4, 1902 in Detroit, Michigan
- Died: August 26, 1974 in Maui, Hawaii
- Best known for: The first person to pilot a solo non-stop flight from New York to Paris
Where was Charles Lindbergh born?
Charles Lindbergh as born in Detroit, Michigan on February 4, 1902. His father was elected to the U.S. Congress when Charles was still a child. His mother was a schoolteacher. Charles spent much of his youth in Minnesota and Washington D.C. He enjoyed the outdoors while living on his family's farm in Minnesota.
Learning to Fly
Charles dreamed of one day becoming a pilot. After two years of college at the University of Wisconsin, he quit to take a job as an airplane mechanic. Then he took flying lessons and began to fly planes as a barnstormer. Barnstormers were pilots that traveled the country performing stunts and giving people rides at air shows.
Life as a Pilot
In 1924, Charles joined the Army Air Service where he received formal training as a pilot. After graduating from the army's training school, he took a job as a mail pilot. This was a pretty dangerous job at the time because pilots had to navigate mostly by eyesight and they didn't know when they were flying into bad weather.
The Famous Flight
For many years Charles had dreamt of winning the Orteig Prize that would pay $25,000 to the first pilot to fly non-stop from New York to Paris. The prize was first offered in 1919, but by 1927, no one had successfully made the flight. Charles was sure he could complete the flight. He convinced several businessmen in St. Louis to help pay for a special airplane to be built.
On May 20, 1927 Charles took off from New York aboard his plane, the Spirit of St. Louis. For the next 33 1/2 hours Charles flew the plane towards Paris. It was a dangerous flight. He used the stars to navigate when possible, but sometimes he just had a compass to guide him. He had to fly through storm clouds, fog, and deal with ice. He also had to stay awake the entire 33 1/2 hours because he was the only one on the plane. Finally, Charles arrived in Paris. He was the first pilot to fly non-stop from New York to Paris.
The Spirit of St. Louis
The Spirit of St. Louis was designed specifically to make the transatlantic flight. It was longer than the average plane in order to hold 425 gallons of fuel. Lindbergh had it built with only a single engine. He knew having just one engine was risky, but felt that it gave him a better chance of success. The plane was built to be as aerodynamic as possible in order to make the fuel last longer. The cockpit was so small that Lindbergh couldn't stretch out his legs for the full 33 1/2 hour trip!
After completing the trip, Lindbergh became very famous. People across the world considered him to be a hero. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by President Calvin Coolidge and a huge parade was held for him in New York City. He traveled around the world promoting aviation. It was during his travels that he met his wife, Anne. They married on May 27, 1929.
The Lindbergh Kidnapping
In 1932, tragedy struck the Lindbergh family. The Lindbergh's one year old son was kidnapped from their home in Hopewell, New Jersey. Sadly, the boy was found dead in the woods ten weeks later. After two years of investigating, the police arrested Bruno Hauptmann for the kidnapping. He was found guilty in what newspapers at the time called the "Trial of the Century."
World War II
When World War II began, Lindbergh was against the United States getting involved. However, after Pearl Harbor, he went to work for the U.S. Army as an advisor. He flew around 50 combat missions during the war and helped to test out new planes.
Charles Lindbergh died from cancer on August 26, 1974 on the island of Maui in Hawaii.
Interesting Facts About Charles Lindbergh
- He was an inventor. He helped develop a pump for an artificial heart. He also invented cruise control techniques for pilots during the war.
- He was named the first ever "Man of the Year" by Time Magazine in 1927.
- In later life, he became an environmentalist and worked to protect animals such as the blue whale and the humpback whale.
- You can see the Spirit of St. Louis at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
- In 1954, he became a Brigadier General in the U.S. Air Force.