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Famous Pilots: Charles Lindbergh

Written by on Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

Charles Lindbergh is the quintessential example of the American dream. He started as a no-name mechanical engineering student and eventually became one of the most famous and adored people of his time.

Looking back at young Charles’ past, it’s no surprise that he was destined for greatness. Even at an early age he exhibited natural fondness and curiosity for his family’s car and motorbike, so it was inevitable that he joined the University of Wisconsin to study engineering.

This brash young man quickly decided that he was much more interested in aviation, and left school after a mere two years to become a barnstormer, an aerial daredevil. Of course, it would take extensive training before he got his first chance at aerial tumbling. It wasn’t until April of 1922, at the age of 20, when Charles was able to fly his first plane. From there, he became an airplane mechanic, wingwalker, and parachutist, performing all across the Midwest.

After a six-month flying hiatus, Charles dropped $500 (approximately $6,000 by today’s standards) on a Curtiss JN-4 biplane. Charles took the air as soon as he was able, logging his first solo flight. Charles went on to perform barnstorming stunts for the rest of the 1923 year.

Shortly thereafter, Charles was required to report to the United States Army Air Service for training, but he returned to civilian work after graduation. Chrales then went on to serve in his more famous role as a mailway airman.

Just a few years before Charles even touched his first plane, wealthy New York hotel owner Raymond Orteig offered a $25,000 ($300,000 today) prize to the first pilot to accomplish a solo flight from New York to Orteig’s mother country, France. Many pilots made the attempt. Some never made it off the runway due to overloaded buy generic antibiotics online aircraft, while others vanished over the open ocean. Tragically, six experienced airmen paid the ultimate price in pursuit of the Orteig Prize.

The confident 25-year-old Charles Lindbergh decided that he was ready to try his hand. Armed with a hefty $15,000 bank loan ($200,000 today) and most of his personal earnings, Charles funded the construction of the customized Spirit of St. Louis, which earned its name in honor of Charles’ supporters in St. Louis, Missouri.

On May 20, 1927, Charles took to the air from Roosevelt Field, navigating the Spirit of St. Louis with its hefty 450 gallon load of fuel. Charles later reported that his transatlantic flight was fraught with many dangers, as he avoided storm clouds, flew for hours blindly through fog, and often resorted to navigating with the stars.

His daunting thirty-three-and-a-half hour flight ended in Paris, where he was greeted by a crowd of 15,000 adoring fans. The crowd ripped Charles from his plane and carried him on their shoulders for close to thirty minutes before French officials could rescue him.

Charles was immediately catapulted into worldwide fame and recognition. He used his celebrity to support the US postal system and oppose US entry into WWII.

Years later in 1932, in what became known as the “Crime of the Century,” Charles Lindbergh’s son, Charles Jr., was kidnapped from their rural New Jersey home. The body of the young boy was found six weeks later, but the media attention was so intense that Charles and his family fled to England in search of comparative refuge.

Charles Lindbergh’s life is a complicated one, simultaneously full of enviable accomplishments and tragic circumstances. Even though Charles’ later years were marked with sadness and loss, he will always be remembered as a heroic aviator.

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