When we talk about the history of aviation and the development of the airline industry, we must certainly mention the name of Charles Lindbergh. Charles Lindbergh was an American pilot who rose to worldwide fame in 1927 after becoming the first man to fly solo and continuous across the Atlantic Ocean in his monoplane, Spirit of St. Louis. Other aviators had crossed the Atlantic before him. But he was honored for the first nonstop solo flight over the Atlantic Ocean, from New York City to Paris, on May 20–21, 1927. His daring effort supported make Missouri a conductor in the developing world of aviation.
Born on February 4, 1902, in Detroit, Michigan, Charles Lindbergh was raised on a farm in Minnesota as the son of a lawyer and a congressman. Lindbergh was not an especially good pupil in the school. Instead, he displayed extraordinary mechanical ability. When Lindbergh became eighteen, his parents influenced him to enroll at the University of Wisconsin. He studied mechanical engineering, but he struck out in his second year of study. His increasing interest in aviation drove him in Lincoln, Nebraska, to work for the Nebraska Aircraft Corporation. The company purchased old military airplanes, fix them up, and sold them to the people. There Lindbergh learned about airplane mechanics and learned to fly planes. He bought a World War I-era Curtiss JN-4 (“Jenny”), with which he made stunt-flying journeys through Southern and Midwestern states.
In 1924 he entered the army flying school, which was in San Antonio, Texas, and was very challenging. In 1925, he graduated as the best pilot in his class. After gaining new skill Charles was appointed by Robertson Aircraft Corporation in St. Louis. He was made the main pilot, liable for scheduling and planning the route. These flights were extremely demanding and dangerous. During this job, he becomes an experienced aviator, which was of great help to him to undertake the venture by which he became famous in history.
In the 1920s, a New York City hotel owner called Raymond Orteig was submitting a prize of $25,000 to the first pilot to fly nonstop from New York to Paris without getting any stops. Some others had attempted and failed, but this didn’t prevent him. Lindbergh believed he could win it if he had the best airplane. He convinced nine St. Louis businessmen to help him support the cost of a plane. Lindbergh took off from Roosevelt Field in Long Island, New York, on May 20, 1927. Flying a monoplane named Spirit of St Louis, he passed the Atlantic Ocean. Lindbergh landed at Le Bourget Field near Paris after 33.5 hours in the air. During his groundbreaking journey, he had moved more than 3,600 miles. In his arrival, Lindbergh was greeted by more than 100,000 people who came to see aviation history in the making.
The fame he gained overnight has become enormous. He was presented with the first-ever Congressional Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Flying Cross and made a colonel in the Air Corps Reserve. After the beginning accolades for his achievement, Lindbergh made an 82-city U.S. tour in the Spirit of St. Louis to increase the commercialization of aviation, giving Americans throughout the country with the possibility to display their admiration. Late in 1927, Lindbergh traveled to Latin America as a goodwill ambassador for the U.S. government. While in Mexico, he met Anne Spencer Morrow, daughter of the American ambassador. The two were soon married.
The next chapter of their lives is remembered as the biggest tragedy for them and as the greatest crime of the 30s. On March 1, 1932, Lindbergh’s 20-month old son, Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr., was kidnapped near Hopewell, New Jersey. A $50,000 ransom was paid, but ten weeks later, his dead body was discovered. In 1934, police caught a carpenter, Bruno Richard Hauptmann, and charged him with the murder. Hauptmann was sentenced for the crime. He was executed in 1936. The Lindberghs had to handle interruptions by the press and fans. To obtain some privacy, the two went to England in 1935.
Charles voyaged German aviation centers. Lindbergh admired the Luftwaffe’s fighter and bomber designs. He visited German aviation centers at the call of Nazi leader Hermann Göring. Charles was a supporter of the opinion that the US should not enter into a conflict with German, and that Europe is powerless against powerful German aviation. He was later on some occasions accused of supporting the Nazis.
This attitude was encountered by President Roosevelt’s public condemnation, and he resigned his commission in the US Army Air Corps. After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, however, Lindbergh altered his mind and entered the war effort. He went to operate for Henry Ford as a counselor in the composition of B-24 bombers. Though he was prohibited from serving in the military by an irate President Franklin Roosevelt, Lindbergh wound up flying 50 combat missions in the Pacific for a private airplane contractor. Later he served as an adviser for the United Aircraft Corporation on the Navy and Marine Corps’ F-4U Corsair.
After the War, Lindbergh retreated from public observation. He operated as a consultant to the chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force. President Dwight D. Eisenhower reinstalled Lindbergh’s commission and named him a brigadier general in the Air Force in 1954.
During the time Lindbergh declined his earlier belief that aviation would guide to a better world, and he shifted his attention to nature, conservation and the environment. Lindbergh wrote books about his life, including The Spirit of St. Louis (1953), which explained the flight to Paris and obtained him a Pulitzer Prize.
Although some new findings and claims have cast a new light on his life, no one can deny Lindbergh’s lifelong and significant contributions to aviation. The time of his operation involved the necessity of piloting and mechanical knowledge. Therefore, we can say that he was also accountable for the development of aircraft mechanic and its positioning as a fundamental part of aviation. Lindberg spent the last several years of his life in Hawaii. He died of cancer in 1974 at age 72 and is buried in Kipahulu on the island of Maui.