In 1927, aviation pioneer Charles Lindbergh flew non-stop from New York to Paris in his single-engine plane, The Spirit of Saint Louis. It was the first solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean. To mark the 75th anniversary of that event, Charles Lindbergh's grandson is preparing to repeat the historic flight.
On May 1, Erik Lindbergh plans to fly a single-engine plane solo from New York to an airport just outside Paris, just as his grandfather did.
But the similarities end there. When Erik Lindbergh traces his grandfather's ground-breaking 1927 trans-Atlantic flight in an aircraft called the "New Spirit of St. Louis," he will be connected to the latest satellite technology. And, he explains, there are other differences. "The only real similarity is that it's a small, single-engine aircraft. It's different in that ... it's composite, it's low-wing. It goes almost twice as fast, and is much more efficient. So it's really very different. This isn't about re-creating the flight as much as it's about celebrating the flight," he says.
Erik Lindbergh hopes his trip will bring attention to his sponsor, the X-Prize Foundation, which encourages commercial space travel. Currently, 21 teams are competing for a $10 million prize for building and launching a manned spacecraft twice within two weeks.
Erik Lindbergh compares the reward to the $25,000 Orteig Prize, awarded to his grandfather for his flight. He says that flight changed people's perspective on flying. "Before he flew, people who flew in the air were considered flying fools or dare-devils, barn-stormers, etc. And after he flew across the Atlantic, people who flew in the air were called passengers," he says. "So, it really was a shift in perspective. It wasn't a tremendous leap in technology. That was happening already. So that's exactly what we're trying to do with the X-Prize foundation. This technology is here. We've been flying into space for 30-years."
The journey is also sponsored by the Lindbergh Foundation and the Arthritis Foundation. Erik Lindbergh suffers from the incurable joint disease, rheumatoid arthritis.
Erik Lindbergh has already flown solo across the United States. But the 18-to-20-hour flight to France will mark his first trip to Europe.