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The Spirit of St. Louis

A beautiful shot of a beautiful aircraft - THE Spirit of St. Louis!

THE Spirit of St. Louis

This page is about the Spirit of St. Louis. For those who don't know, the Spirit was the airplane Charles Lindbergh used to fly across the Atlantic. Today such a flight is no big thing as hundreds of thousands of people do so each year. Even back in 1927 there had already been a bunch of folks who had flown across the Atlantic. However, Charles Lindbergh was the first to do so alone. His thirty three and half hour solo flight from New York to Paris was an awesome achievement and it is rightly heralded as one of the seminal events in aviation history. As amazing as that was and as interesting as it still is, I'm not going to go into it much here. There are a whole bunch of other websites which cover that flight and that man and this plane in a lot greater and better detail than I could here. Instead, this page is about the world's only replica of the Spirit of St. Louis and its recent flight as part of the 75th Anniversary Celebration of San Diego's Lindbergh Field.


The San Diego Aerospace Museum's Spirit of St. Louis

The Spirit Replica

Living in San Diego once again proves to be a lucky thing. San Diego is where Charles Lindbergh went to have his trans-Atlantic flight airplane constructed. The company he had build his plane, Ryan Airlines, is still in business today as Teledyne-Ryan here in San Diego. As such, this city has a long association with aviation and with Lindbergh and with his plane. Our local international airport is named after the man and the Spirit of St. Louis has a place dear in the hearts of all San Diego aviation buffs. So, it was only natural for the San Diego Aerospace Museum to make their own Spirit of St. Louis. What makes it a replica as opposed to a reproduction is that this one was built to the original plans, used the same materials, used the same construction methods, and was even assembled by some of the men who built the original one back in 1927. That makes this a very unique machine.

The Spirit up close My day started by heading down to Lindbergh Field to take in the celebrations down there. The Spirit had already flown in and landed by the time I got there so I missed that bit but this also meant I didn't have to wade through all the pomp and circumstance that marked the beginning of the ceremony either.

I did get there just in time to snag a front row seat as the crowd was being shushed back away from the plane so the politicos could do their speechifying. The celebration was about the airport and not just the plane so some officials connected with the airport began the official portion of the ceremony. They were about as exciting to listen to as accountants reading financial abstracts about pork belly futures.

I thought it was interesting to hear the head of the Airport Authority when he spoke of Lindbergh. It was obvious that the man had brushed up on the subject - but that was the extent of his efforts: just brushing up. Other than that the man revealed himself truly clueless and very obviously a bureaucrat who would have been just as happy administering a donut hole making company as he would the San Diego International Airport if the pay and prestige were the same. I noted this when he referred to Lindbergh as "Lucky Lindy."

Charles A. Lindbergh well knew how important luck was to any endeavor but to characterize him as being "Lucky Lindy" was to dismiss the man's awesome skills, exceptional knowledge of aeronautics, and his exacting professionalism. Lindbergh was the one who composed the specifications for the Spirit of St. Louis, had a direct hand in its design, worked alongside the Ryan employees in making the Spirit, and proved a consummate professional aviator making that historic flight. In the years after that flight Lindbergh became a major force in the aviation world by sponsoring numerous aeronautical developments and research efforts. Not the least of which was his sponsorship of Robert Goddard and his rocket research efforts.

With all that in mind, it was no surprise to anyone who knew anything about Lindbergh to also know that Charles Lindbergh HATED the term "Lucky Lindy" and viewed it more as an insult than anything else.

That this bureaucrat would use that phrase in the midst of the ceremony honoring the man's memory showed just how much of a mindless political drone he was. It also made that much clear the contrast between the politicos and the San Diego Aerospace Museum volunteers who had built the Spirit of St. Louis replica, restored it to flight status, and flew it that day. Those men were far more "real" and for more interesting to me.

Posing for the camera with Charles

A couple of bucks would get you your photo taken with the good Col. Lindbergh. I thought this too cute for words. There was another image which I was just a second or two too slow on and that was when a South West Airlines ramp rat had walked over to the plane, and held up her cellphone to take a picture of the Spirit with the phone's built-in camera. Truly, we live in a modern age.

So, instead of loosing the cash for a Polaroid I wouldn't like much anyway, I simply traded photo taking with another guy with camera who had as much need for a "the Spirit and me" picture.

A crowded flightline around the Spirit I spent much of my time down there at Lindbergh Field taking as many detail shots of the Spirit as I could. That is, when I could actually get to the plane through the crowd! The media was down there and the pilot of the Spirit got himself some airtime as did this gentleman who's dad actually helped build THE Spirit of St. Louis. It was a nice touch having him there and the rest of that Aerospace Museum crowd were well appreciated for what they had achieved with this plane and its flight.
My detail shots were taken with an eye toward model making so as to capture what the actual details of the actual aircraft look like. So, I took a bunch of shots of landing gear, the control cables, the hinges, the engine, the fabric panels, and the like.
Among the other items they had on display during the celebration was this one here on the right. It is a full size replica of the Spirit's cockpit. It was open to the public so if you were of a mind to you could clamber into it. I was and I did. Charles Lindbergh stood at over six foot tall. I'm just six feet and I found this little enclosure to be cramped indeed. Lindbergh was stuck in this thing for almost a day and a half during his flight.

The Spirit Cockpit replica
As bad a portrait of Charles Lindbergh as you're likely to ever see.

As I was leaving Lindbergh Field I simply had to get a shot of this mural. It is painted on the side of Commuter Airline Terminal building and I think it is as bad a portrait of Charles Lindbergh as you are ever likely to see. I'm glad I didn't do this rendition and am also glad I wasn't the guy who had to pay for it.
The Spirit in Flight

The Spirit of St. Louis In Flight

This was a fine sight to see. After I did my jaunt around the Anniversary Celebration down at Lindbergh Field I then wound up at Gillespie Field out in Santee/ El Cajon. This is where the Aerospace Museum has its restoration annex and that's where the Spirit was headed back to after its appearance at the Celebration was over. By getting there ahead of time I got to see the Spirit as it came in for landing. The weather that day was a typical picture perfect Southern California summer's day. That was good as I wanted to take some pictures.

As usual, I was far from alone in thinking such things and one of the guys next to me had his camera set up on a tripod and had a big honkin telephoto lens and glare tube shield assembly on it. So, the photos I got were about as good as this one above here. Still though, it was nice to see this plane in flight and to hear the unique purr of its Wright radial engine.

It was a good day.

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This page was last updated on: 21 August 2003