A Family Salute

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at Cairo University, Thursday, June 4, 2009 in Cairo, Egypt. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Pushed by strong tail winds, the grandson of aviation icon Charles Lindbergh touched down Sunday in this St. Louis suburb in the first leg of a journey to duplicate his grandfather's historic 1927 solo crossing of the Atlantic.

About two hours ahead of schedule, Erik Lindbergh, 36, arrived Sunday evening in the New Spirit of St. Louis, a state-of-the-art Lancair Columbia 300 equipped with modern communications technology and safety gear.

The flight re-creation is part of the 75th anniversary celebration of Charles Lindbergh's cross-Atlantic flight, which began in San Diego, where the original Spirit of St. Louis was built.

Wearing a blue flight suit, the young Lindbergh left San Diego's Lindbergh Field Sunday morning without speaking to reporters. Arriving at the Spirit of St. Louis Airport, he stepped from his tiny plane and gave a couple of thumbs-up signs.

Lindbergh called the flight uneventful, besides three hours of turbulence he weathered while trying to eat a sandwich.

"I'm ready to rest for a couple of days," Lindbergh said. He was asked what he thought his famous grandfather might say about his plans.

"He might say, `Why are you doing this crazy thing?' I have no idea," Lindbergh said. "I'm very excited."

Lindbergh's arrival was greeted by about 20 spectators, some with binoculars and cameras. The observers applauded and wished him well.

He plans to fly on April 20 to Farmingdale, N.Y., where he will begin the 17- to 21-hour flight to Paris on May 1. The cross-Atlantic trip took Charles Lindbergh 33 1/2 hours.

The quest will be monitored by a mission control center at the St. Louis Science Center.

The new aircraft, made of a glass and carbon composite, was built in Bend, Ore., for $289,000. Its average cruise speed is 184 mph, compared with the 108 mph of the original Spirit of St. Louis, which was built for $10,580.

The Missouri stop was significant because two St. Louis movers and shakers of decades past financed the 1927 flight. En route to New York in his new silver monoplane, Charles Lindbergh stopped in St. Louis to show his backers what their money had built.

In San Diego, dozens of reporters and supporters gathered to see off the young Lindbergh, a commercial pilot and artist who lives in the Seattle area.

The adventure is intended to raise awareness of rheumatoid arthritis, which disabled Erik Lindbergh for 15 years before drug treatment helped restore his mobility.

Organizers also hope the journey will promote the X Prize Foundation, a St. Louis-based nonprofit group that is offering $10 million to the first private group that can build and launch a manned spacecraft into space, then repeat the feat within two weeks.

The competition is modeled after the Orteig Prize, the $25,000 bounty won by Charles Lindbergh for making the New York-to-Paris trip.


By Jim Suhr
  • Francie Grace

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