A Flight Simulator Odyssey

by Charles Gulick

The Lone Eagle

Chart: Northern France
En Route Coordinates:
   Aircraft: N17461, E14238
   Tower: N17471.608, E14296.936
   Aircraft: 3100
   Tower: 221
Heading: 080
Time: Night (21:45)

Of course, we must enter Paris under something like the conditions in which Charles Lindbergh (or Lindy or Lucky Lindy or The Lone Eagle) entered it on that famous day and year, or more properly, night and year, May 21, 1927. It was then that he completed the world's first non-stop solo transatlantic flight.

Imagine, if you can, that you're in the cockpit, not of your Cessna or Piper, but of The Spirit of St. Louis. That being the case, you can see nothing ahead because your air-craft is equipped only with side windows; you'd have to stick your head out of one of them, or yaw the airplane left or right, to see Le Bourget Airport out there just below the horizon.

You've been flying for more than 33 hours since yesterday morning, when you coaxed your overloaded airplane out of the mud and into the air at Roosevelt Field, Long Island--barely missing some telephone lines as your wheels finally left the ground and you started to climb. At one point in your long solo flight you fell asleep, awaking with a jolt just in time to avoid ditching in a rough Atlantic Ocean.

According to The Twentieth Century, An Almanac, "Lindbergh covers the 3600 miles in 331/2 hours. His flight is tracked by millions, and when he lands at Orly Airport, 100,000 people are on hand to greet him." If that was the case, of course, there'd have been 100,000 disappointed people, since he landed at Le Bourget, not Orly, at 10 p.m. Paris time.

So, just before you unpause, set your clock to about 21:-55. You should touch down on Runway 08, Le Bourget's shortest, at or close to 22:00 hours. Elevation is 224 feet.

Don't be surprised if a sea of people engulfs you and the air-plane as you finish the landing roll.

There is more to the Lindbergh story than his history-making flight. Born February 4, 1902, in Detroit, Michigan, he grew up in Little Falls, Minnesota, studied engineering for three semesters at the University of Wisconsin, enrolled in a flying school in Lincoln, Nebraska, and in 1924 enlisted as a flying cadet in what was then the air service division of the War Department. He did stints with the Missouri National Guard and was a captain in the Officers Reserve Corps. In April of 1925 he became an airmail pilot on the St. Louis-Chicago route, and it was while flying the mails that he decided to compete for a $25,000 prize offered by Raymond B. Orteig for a non-stop New York- Paris flight.

In St. Louis, Lindbergh convinced a group of businessmen to finance the construction of an aircraft for the transatlantic attempt (which is how it came to be called The Spirit of St. Louis).

After the flight, he was awarded the French Cross of the Legion Of Honor, the British Royal Air Force Cross and, in the U.S. the Distinguished Flying Cross and Congressional medal. A national hero, he made an air tour of 78 cities and every state in the union. He also flew non-stop from Washington, D.C. to Mexico City in December of 1927, then to Central America, South America, and the West Indies.

In 1929 he married Anne Morrow, and their first child was named Charles Augustus Lindbergh after his famous father. The kidnapping of this son in 1932, at the age of 19 months, made world-wide headlines. The child was taken from the Lindbergh home in Hopewell, New Jersey. A note demanding a ransom of $50,000 was received, and was paid according to the instructions, but Charles Jr. was not returned. He was found dead. Four years later, in 1936, Bruno Richard Hauptman, who had been discovered in possession of some of the ransom money a few months after the murder, was convicted of the crime and electrocuted. Until the end, Hauptman would declare he was innocent.

Publicity surrounding the crime forced the Lindberghs to live in England from 1935 to 1939. Soon after their return Lindbergh resigned his Air Corps Reserve commission, under fire from President Franklin D. Roosevelt for his opposition to the proposed American intervention in World War II. An isolationist, he joined the America First Committee in April of 1941, but later the same year volunteered his services to the Air Force, and flew on combat missions as a consultant. He showed USAF bomber pilots his old time techniques for leaning the mixture of gas and air in their engines, so as to extract the maximum from their fuel on long distance flights. The results amazed the young fliers.

In 1953, Lindbergh received the Pulitzer Prize for his book, The Spirit of St. Louis, and a year later was made a Brigadier General in the Air Force Reserve. He died in 1974, having exemplified the sobriquet, The Lone Eagle, throughout all of his life.

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