When Was the First Solo Transatlantic Flight?
The first solo flight across the Atlantic was made on May 20-21, 1927, by an American, Charles A. Lindbergh. He flew from Long Island, New York to Paris, France in an aircraft called Spirit of St. Louis after the city where the machine was made. The flight, which took 33 ½ hours, gained Lindbergh worldwide fame and a prize of 25,000 dollars offered by a man called Raymond Orteig to fly non-stop from New York to Paris.
Early in 1927, Charles A. Lindbergh obtained the backing of nine St. Louis investors to compete for the prize. When he successfully reached Paris, Lindbergh became a world hero who would remain in the public eye for decades. He later made an air tour of the United States, visiting every state and 78 cities.
The Flight: In the early morning of Friday, May 20, 1927, Lindbergh took off from Roosevelt Field across the Atlantic Ocean for Paris, France. His monoplane was loaded with 450 U.S. gallons (1,704 liters) of fuel that was strained repeatedly to avoid fuel line blockage. The fully loaded aircraft weighed 5,135 lb (2,329 kg), and takeoff was hampered by a muddy, rain-soaked runway. Lindbergh’s monoplane was powered by a J-5C Wright Whirlwindradial engine and gained speed very slowly during its 7:52 a.m. takeoff, but cleared telephone lines at the far end of the field “by about twenty feet [six meters] with a fair reserve of flying speed”.
Over the next 33 1⁄2 hours, Lindbergh and the Spirit faced many challenges, which included skimming over storm clouds at 10,000 ft (3,000 m) and wave tops at as low as 10 ft (3.0 m). The aircraft fought icing, flew blind through fog for several hours, and Lindbergh navigated only by dead reckoning. (He was not proficient at navigating by the sun and stars and he rejected radio navigation gear as heavy and unreliable. He was fortunate that the winds over the Atlantic cancelled each other out, giving him zero wind drift – and thus accurate navigation during the long flight over featureless ocean.)
He landed at Le Bourget Aerodrome at 10:22 p.m. on Saturday, May 21. The airfield was not marked on his map and Lindbergh knew only that it was some seven miles northeast of the city; he initially mistook it for some large industrial complex because of the bright lights spreading out in all directions—in fact the headlights of tens of thousands of spectators’ cars caught in “the largest traffic jam in Paris history” in their attempt to be present for Lindbergh’s landing.
A crowd estimated at 150,000 stormed the field, dragged Lindbergh out of the cockpit, and literally carried him around above their heads for “nearly half an hour”. Some damage was done to the Spirit (especially to the fine linen, silver-painted fabric covering on the fuselage) by souvenir hunters before pilot and plane reached the safety of a nearby hangar with the aid of French military fliers, soldiers, and police. Lindbergh’s flight was certified by the National Aeronautic Association based on the readings from a sealed barograph placed in the Spirit.