There are seminal moments in history when a future course is determined and the world is never again the same.

Charles Lindbergh, posing by the Spirit of St. Louis
Charles Lindbergh, posing by the "Spirit of St. Louis"

The first nonstop solo transatlantic flight changed forever the political and social landscape of the world. In 1927, the Spirit of St. Louis took off in a civilization of geographically isolated cultures, and 33 1⁄2 hours later, in an act of stunning courage, landed across the Atlantic and single-handedly redefined the world as a global community. The pilot’s willingness to try that which had never been accomplished was heroic. But as an instrument of history, his accomplishment was revolutionary.

Loaded with Fuel and Bravery

What did it take to get Charles Lindbergh across the Atlantic in May 1927? Was it the $25,000 Orteig Prize offered for the first nonstop flight between New York and Paris? Was it his Ryan NYP monoplane, custom made in San Diego, California? Was it his payload of four sandwiches, two canteens of water, and 451 gallons of fuel? The truth is it took all of this, plus a remarkable surplus of bravery. The Orteig prize had claimed several lives since it was first offered in 1919, yet still the 25-year-old airmail pilot found himself on the runway at Roosevelt Field early on the morning of May 19th. The Spirit was so heavily laden with fuel (and not much else—even the parachute was left behind to save weight) that Lindbergh managed to clear a tractor parked at the runway’s end by a mere 15 feet.

A Week's Journey Completed in 33 ½ hours

For nearly a day and a half, Lindbergh piloted the Spirit, fighting weather, fog, icing, and exhaustion, ultimately sighting the southern tip of Ireland. Navigating from that point to Paris, he first circled the Eiffel Tower before heading to Le Bourget field, where he landed at 10:22 p.m. local time, greeted by a welcoming throng of 100,000 cheering people. The voyage—which until that day would have taken a week by boat—took just 33 ½ hours.

The Lindbergh Foundation's Dedication to Conservation

His fame was instantaneous and worldwide. And although his life—Lindbergh died in 1974 at the age of 72—was punctuated by triumph and tragedy, his fame never waned. Of his passions, environmental causes and conservation were arguably his greatest. Founded in 1977, the Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation was created to help humankind find the balance between technological advancement and the preservation of our environment through grants, awards, and educational programs. The Foundation (a nonprofit organization) is supported by tax-deductible contributions from individuals, companies, foundations, and other organizations. Learn about the ongoing work of the Lindbergh Foundation at www.lindberghfoundation.org.

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