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May, 21 1927 Charles Lindbergh touched down in his custom Ryan monoplane at Le Bourget Field in Paris, completing the world’s first solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean. The flight lasted over 33 hours, and he was greeted by an enthusiastic crowd of 100,000.

The image on the left with an atmospheric print showing the Spirit of St. Louis flying over the Atlantic is inscribed by Donald A. Hall - a pioneering aeronautical engineer and aircraft designer who designed the Ryan NYP (known commonly as The Spirit of St. Louis) in only sixty days.

May 21, 1927

Charles Lindbergh Completes First Solo Transatlantic Flight

Fighting fog, icing, and sleep deprivation, Charles A. Lindbergh becomes the first aviator to make a solo, non-stop, transatlantic flight.

Lindbergh and his “Spirit of St. Louis” took off from Roosevelt Field on Long Island, New York on May 20 and landed at Le Bourget Field in Paris 33 hours and 30 minutes later.

He covered a distance of 3,610 miles. By making the flight, Lindbergh collected a $25,000 purse that had been offered by New York hotel owner Raymond Orteig.

Read the entire timeline of Lindbergh’s flight here.


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May 21,1927 – Charles Lindbergh touches down at Le Bourget Field in Paris, completing the world’s first solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean.

1.  View of aviator Charles A. Lindbergh on platform, during his visit to Detroit, Michigan as part of the 1927 Guggenheim goodwill tour. “Welcome, Lindbergh” sign is displayed overhead. The event took place at Northwestern Field. To promote aviation, Lindbergh visited 48 states and 82 cities during a three-month period. Handwritten on back: “Lindbergh, Charles A. Visit to Detroit, 1927. Northwestern Field, Aug. 10, 1927." 

2.  View of the birthplace of aviator Charles A. Lindbergh in Detroit, Michigan, located at 1120 W. Forest Avenue. Two-story Richardsonian Romanesque house has turret and covered entry porch. Label on back: "John A. Wiederhold, 3861 Rohns Ave., Detroit, Mich. When Col. Charles A. Lindbergh was born in the above house at 1120 W. Forest Ave., Detroit, the event passed almost unnoticed. Now, however, the entire world is awaiting the arrival of a new Lindberg [sic], heir of the Colonel; amid a different setting." 

  • Courtesy of the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library
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(vía https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TT2VI7R9524)

Charles Lindbergh, with Spirit of St. Louis in background, 1927
The Spirit of St. Louis (Registration: N-X-211) is the custom-built, single engine, single-seat monoplane that was flown solo by Charles Lindbergh on May 20–21, 1927, on the first non-stop flight from New York to Paris for which Lindbergh won the $25,000 Orteig Prize. Lindbergh took off in the Spirit from Roosevelt Airfield, Garden City (Long Island), New York and landed 33 hours, 30 minutes later at Aéroport Le Bourget in Paris, France, a distance of approximately 3,600 miles (5,800 km.).

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The Smithsonian’s Digitization Program Office recently 3D scanned three Milestones of Flight Aircraft at the National Air and Space Museum - Spirit of St. Louis, Bell X-1, SpaceShipOne. Look for these models soon on http://3d.si.edu for viewing and download! 

Lindbergh Artifacts

When Charles Lindbergh succeeded in becoming the first pilot to fly solo non-stop across the Atlantic on May 21, 1927, he became the “American Hero” of the late 1920s and early 1930s. Tall, handsome and soft-spoken, he certainly made a great impression; but it was his bold belief in the abilities of modern aircraft—especially in terms of safety and reliability—that really made him successful. Lindbergh made the 33-hour flight without an autopilot of any kind, and to save weight (and fuel), he decided against floats, multiple engines, radios, or a copilot (to qualify for the Orteig Prize award he was not required to fly solo). Believe it or not, Charles Lindbergh flew that first non-stop flight from New York to Paris without the use of a front windshield! When he wanted to see forward he would slightly bank the plane and look out the side window. To provide some forward vision as a precaution against hitting ship masts, trees, or structures while flying at low altitude he used a periscope device.

The artifacts you see are the actual goggles he wore on his flight across the Atlantic, and the Medal of Honor that was awarded to him in 1927 “for displaying heroic courage and skill as a navigator, at the risk of his life, by his nonstop flight in his airplane.” For a good look at the technology of the day—including that periscope sticking out the left side of Lindy’s plane—go back and study our beautiful “Spirit of St. Louis” replica and Lindbergh display in our entrance Rotunda.  

On May 21, 1927, Charles Lindbergh landed in Paris, France, completing the first-ever solo trans-Atlantic flight after 33.5 hours in the air.

One of the youngest and least-experienced pilots to attempt the crossing that had already claimed the lives of six other well-known aviators, Lindbergh overcame storms, frost, blinding fog, and exhaustion to arrive over France without a clear idea of where his intended landing airfield actually was, since it wasn’t marked anywhere on his map.

He initially mistook the field as an industrial complex due to the many lights spreading out in all directions. It turned out that the lights belonged to tens of thousands of cars filled with fans that had driven out to see the historic landing.

Image: “Photograph of Charles Lindbergh and The Spirit of St. Louis after Landing in Paris, 1927

Charles Lindbergh landing at Le Bourget airfield in Paris with The Spirit of St. Louis, becoming the first man to make a solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean, May 21, 1927.

He took off from Roosevelt Field near New York City 33 ½ hours earlier. Flying northeast along the coast, he flew over Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, and from there on, he relied only on his magnetic compass, his airspeed indicator, and luck to navigate toward Ireland. The flight had captured the imagination of the American public like few events in history. Citizens waited nervously by their radios, listening for news of the flight.