The crowd at Spirit of St. Louis airport roared as the young
Lindbergh, flying solo in a single engine plane, lifted off the
runway into a misty, leaden sky.
The noisy crowd here on a recent weekend didn't seem to mind that
the pilot's first name was Erik, not Charles.
Dubbed "Young Lindy," Erik Lindbergh has been recreating the
journey of his grandfather from San Diego, where he took delivery of
the Spirit of St. Louis in April 1927, to Missouri, where his
financial backers were located, then on to New York, where he
departed on a flight nonstop to Paris - and to eternal fame.
Tomorrow, 20 days shy of the 75th anniversary of that flight,
Erik Linbergh will retrace the epic transatlantic flight which
remains one of America's most enduring cultural touchstones, echoing
in history alongside the moon landing and the Mayflower.
The frenzied public response when Charles Lindbergh stepped out
of his plane after doing, in 33- 1/2 hours, what no pilot had done
before was a media milestone - a harbinger of the superstardom that
was to follow for the likes of the Beatles, Marilyn Monroe, and
The flight also helped mark the divide between America's agrarian
past and its technological future. Lindbergh's aerial skills, after
all, had been honed as a mechanized pony- express rider over the
cornfields of St. Louis to Chicago.
But more than anything else, Lindbergh captured instant and
enduring fascination by fulfilling that most primal of American
ideals: the singular, lone conquest over incalculable odds.
The last great solo first
Given the roster of accomplishments and firsts that cover the
past century, many are at a loss to explain why Lindbergh's feat
endures as a feat that still captures imaginations.
"Even my father never quite understood it," says Reeve Lindbergh,
the daughter of Charles and Anne Morrow and president of their
namesake foundation. "His achievement seemingly spoke to something
in all Americans."
As the 75th anniversary of Charles Lindbergh's solo flight on May
20 approaches, "the Lone Eagle's" lasting fame is showing a similar
ability to stay aloft.
The occasion will be marked by TV specials, new books, and a
replica of the Spirit of St. Louis which will make appearances
around the country (the original is still one of the most popular
exhibits at the Smithsonian.)
In St. Louis, spirit of celebration
Interest in the anniversary is particularly acute in St. Louis,
where a new museum exhibit of Lindbergh artifacts will open, a gala
dinner is planned, and even a new opera based on the lives of
Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh will premiere. It was here that
Lindbergh, fresh out of flight school in Texas, decided to drop in
on St. Louis. He stayed on as an airmail pilot, went on to survive
two plane crashes by parachuting to safety, and soon met the men who
would finance his transatlantic dare.
In a city still smarting from the recent loss of TWA and the
swallowing of famed McDonnell-Douglas by Boeing several years ago,
the Lindbergh anniversary is a balm, a reminder of St. Louis's
glorious role in aviation history. The local media has followed Erik
Lindbergh's every move.
"I'm not trying to duplicate what my Grandfather did," says Erik
Lindbergh, a commercial pilot, certified flight instructor, and