Charles Lindbergh became a hero on May 21, 1927 when he completed the first-ever solo nonstop transatlantic flight, piloting his Ryan NYP Spirit of St Louis 3,610 miles from New York to Paris in 33.5 hours. Over 150,000 people were on hand to greet him in Paris—both the Spirit of St Louis and Charles Lindbergh himself had attained legendary status. With this flight, he became the first person to accomplish the feat, and thereby won the Orteig Prize of $25,000.
With a reputation as a talented flyer by the age of 25, Charles Lindbergh was already an accomplished aviator, and his experience as a daredevil barnstormer, expert mechanic, exhibition parachutist, and intrepid airmail pilot all contributed to his ability to compete for —and win—the Orteig Prize. He had parachuted to safety four times in harrowing emergency situations, earning the nickname, Lucky Lindy. He had pioneered the air mail route between Chicago and St. Louis, where a group of financial supporters there led to the naming of his plane, the Spirit of St Louis.
His air mail pilot experience convinced Lindbergh that a single-engine plane was the only viable option for the Atlantic passage. Ryan Airlines in San Diego offered to build a plane for him based on the their well-known M-1 and M-2 model. In a record-breaking 60 days, and with the help of Chief Engineer Donald Hall, the Ryan model underwent a major redesign and construction.The wing span was increased, the fuselage was increased by 2 feet, and additional fuel tanks were installed for the long flight. Power was supplied by a reliable Wright Whirlwind J-5C Radial engine, 223hp.
Lindbergh remained active after making his historical flight. With his wife Anne, he pioneered a polar route to the Orient. He flew over 50 missions against the Japanese in the South Pacific as a civil pilot, invented an artificial heart, worked as a consultant for Ford, United Airlines, and on the development of PanAm’s Clipper Flying Boats, the 707, and the 747. He was a pioneer in the conservation movement, with special interest in the preservation of the humpback and blue whales in danger of extinction.
On August 26, 1974, Charles Lindbergh died at his home on the island of Maui in Hawaii. His gravestone inscription from Psalm 139:9 reads: “If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea.”