Charles set his goal to raise the funds needed to get a plane built to his specs. As he set about doing this he also sent a cable to the contest holder, New York hotelier Raymond Orteig. He identified himself simply as C.A. Lindbergh, and that he wished to enter the contest.
Charles had soon raised the funds and identified a firm that would work with him to design and build the special plane. They had only 60 days to build it. It had to be very light weight, have a most powerful engine, have capacity to carry more than the usual payload of fuel, and ability to run non-stop for over 40 hours in cold temperatures. The plane would have only the one engine and one cockpit made for a lone pilot.
The Spirit of St Louis, so named in honour of those who helped finance the venture, rolled out of the shed within the 60 day period. It had no front window, and thus no forward sight due to the fact that the engine was so big and the oil tank was installed directly behind the engine. For a forward sight the plane had to be banked and a view taken from one of the side windows. Also a periscope was installed for additional viewing.
The monoplane was very light because most of the usual gages were not installed... including a fuel gauge. Charles was a tall man and the cockpit was so small that he could not even stretch out his legs. Even the normal pilot's heavy seat was scrapped for the lighter seat made of wicker. Charles had no formal training on how to make his own flight charts but he did the math and calculated the fuel requirements and even drew up a flight path and had all double checked and approved by the experts. Above is his monoplane sitting outside a hangar. Also shown is a sketch of his flight path over the Eastern seaboard of the US, along the shores of Nova Scotia, across Newfoundland, over the Atlantic Ocean for about 2,000 Kilometers, over Ireland, England and finally to France.
On 28 April 1927 The Spirit of St Louis was flown for the first time at San Diego California. After a series of tests, on 10 May Charles began his famous venture by flying to St Louis and then on to the Long Island airport known as Roosevelt Field. The flight only took 21 hours and 40 minutes and shattered all current records of the day for Transcontinental flights.
For the next several days final preparations were made for the long flight. The plane's radio had been removed as well as all navigational lights, and... get this... he took no parachute! Charles would take a compass and sextant and maps, but being so concerned about weight he even clipped off the top and bottom parts of the map not needed.
On 20 May it was decided that the bad weather was letting up enough over the ocean that it was the day to take off. The plane was loaded onto a flatbed truck and hauled off from Curtiss Field to Roosevelt and the bucket brigades were put to work dumping another 450 gallons of fuel into the tanks from 5 gallon cans.
Over 500 had garthered to wish him well, including Admiral Byrd. Charles was given 5 sandwiches but somewhat said that surely would not be enough. Charles responded with... "If I get to Paris I won't need any more. If I don't get to Paris I won't need any more either." He then crammed himself into the small cockpit and headed off down the muddy runway with folks pushing on the wings to get him going. But the slow going because of the muddy ground, coupled with the added weight of all the extra fuel caused problems.
It took three runs before the wheels finally lifted off the ground. While the crowds went wild with excitement, perhaps they missed the fact that the plane just cleared the end of the runway and telephone lines by about 10 feet. It was about 10 a.m. NY time.
Within a couple of hours Charles would see the shores of Nova Scotia approaching. For the next four hours he would travel through Canadian air space, along the length of Nova Scotia and over the southern portion of Newfoundland before heading out to sea and a 2000 kilometer stretch to Europe.
The flight was very taxing for Charles who had little sleep before the start of this venture. He passed out a few times but the cool air quickly woke him again. To prevent this he tried several things including stomping his feet, singing aloud and even slapping himself in the face. Several times he ran into heavy fog and was blinded for miles and miles. At one point the wings became iced and he had to drop so low, to warm up the wings, that the plane was only about ten feet above the ocean.
During the 28th hour of flight Charles pulled out of a fog and saw some boats below. He then dropped down to about the 50 foot level, TURNED HIS ENGINE OFF to get rid of the roar, and hollered out... "Which way to Ireland? But he got no response, fired up again and about an hour later the sun rose and there ahead lay the shores of Ireland. Within another 2 hours he was flying over England and in his 33rd hour he was over France.
His first glimpse of France was when he saw thousands of lights and thought it was the shoreline. It in fact was cars coming to greet him. He'd soon be circling the Eiffel Tower from 4000 feet above.
Having never been to the airport he did not know where to go... but then he found some hangars and at about 33 1/2 hours after he left the ground at New York he crawled to a stop. The French has sent out 2 companies of troops, with rifles fitted with bayonets to protect him for the crowds gathered. But they swarmed the plane anyway and got him torn from the cockpit and were carrying him around hoisted above their heads. Finally two officials got him down to ground finally... and into a Renault automobile and spirited him off to US embassy in Paris. Crowds then attacked his plane for anything not nailed down as a keep-sake of this historic moment.
Raymond Orteig, who was running the contest was in Europe at the time and got a message from his son that Lindenburg was expected to land in Paris very soon. Orteig raced off to Paris and got there just in time to meet Charles at the embassy. It just happened to be the anniversary... to the very day... of the start of the contest eight years earlier.
For days the newspapers all around the world told of the New York to Paris contest and that Charles was the winner.
Charles would tour Belgium and England and then would sail back to the US on the USS Memphis ordered to Europe to pick him and plane up and bring them home. He would get over 700 cablegrams congratulating him, would receive many awards and medals and tour 49 states over three months, ride in over 1,200 miles of parade routes, would give almost 150 speeches and be seen and heard by millions.
He arrived on July 2, 1927 flying his Spirit of St Louis monoplane, and was escorted by 2 USC Air Corps Curtiss Hawks. It is believed they all stayed a couple of days and before leaving spent about 30 minutes touring Ottawa by air and even circling our Peace Tower.
Charles served in WWII and eventually retired in Hawaii were he died and was laid to rest in 1974.