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Erik Lindbergh popped out of the cockpit Thursday, furiously waving his arms in the air at the end of his 17-hour flight from New York to Paris.
He was celebrating the replication of his grandfather’s groundbreaking solo and nonstop flight across the Atlantic in 1927. Two generations ago, aviation pioneer Charles Lindbergh, who took along five sandwiches and only nibbled on one, needed nearly twice the time — 33 1/2 hours — for his then-astounding flight. Erik said he ate a sandwich and a half.
“I really wanted to celebrate the 75th anniversary of grandfather’s flight,” Lindbergh said at a news conference at Le Bourget airport outside Paris. “I did it in half the time and ate twice as much.” Lindbergh’s Lancair Columbia 300 — dubbed the New Spirit of St. Louis — landed at Le Bourget at 11:27 a.m. Wearing his blue pilot’s jumpsuit, Lindbergh was met by a crowd of commercial sponsors, dozens of reporters, and well-wishers that included a six-member crew from American Airlines.
The re-creation was part of anniversary commemorations of Charles Lindbergh’s May 20-21, 1927 feat that dazzled the world. Erik Lindbergh, a commercial pilot and certified flight instructor, took off from Republic Airport in Farmingdale, N.Y., just after noon on Wednesday. He had already flown the first two legs of his grandfather’s journey from San Diego, Calif., to St. Louis, Mo., and then on to Farmingdale. Lindbergh said he didn’t take up flying because of his grandfather.
“Becoming a pilot was almost accidental,” he said. “I didn’t really think about it until I was 24 and took a flight with a friend. Not many members of the family fly.” Lindbergh said the trip was designed to raise awareness of rheumatoid arthritis, which disabled the 37-year-old for 15 years before surgery and drug treatment helped restore his movement. “I have my life back. I have my freedom,” he said. “With that second chance, I wanted to do something special.”
Organizers also hope the journey will promote the X Prize Foundation, a St. Louis-based nonprofit group offering $10 million to the first private group that can successfully build and launch a manned spacecraft, then repeat the feat within two weeks. “I’m trying to open up space flight for everyone, so that in the near future people like you and I can go and buy a ticket and fly into space,” Lindbergh said.
Lindbergh’s $289,000 aircraft, made of a glass and carbon composite, had an average cruising speed of 184 mph, compared with the 108 mph of the original, $10,580 Spirit of St. Louis. The single-engine plane used a Global Positioning System navigation device to chart its exact location. Lindbergh’s grandfather used deduced reckoning — “holding a compass and guessing at the wind.” Erik Lindbergh, of Seattle, is the son of Jon Lindbergh, the oldest surviving child of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh. The couple had six children.
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