Ray Orteig would be attending an address for famed flyer Eddie Rickenbacker when he got to thinking. He wanted a way to get more business...and especially from his old homeland of France. He then came up with an idea to sponsor a contest and pay $25,000 to the first person who flew non stop from New York to Paris... in either direction. The contest would be opened for five years. It was announced on 22 May 1922.
And that got Charles listening. And reading page after page in newspapers about others trying... and failing, and in some cases even dying in attempts to win that whopping prize. Charles, being no newbie to the age of flight, decided he'd better take some actions on his own.
But Charlie would get his turn.
Charles was born in Detroit at the home of his grandparents but within short order the family moved to Little Falls. Charlie would get his formal education there and then start University course in engineering at the University of Wisconsin. But after several semesters he got bored and left school
Remembering the roars of planes flying overhead and of course reading of the Orteig contest got Charlie taking his first flight... as a passenger... in 1922. Within days he was in the pilot's seat and flying, but not on his own. But by 1923 he was flying solo.
Soon Charlie would be in the business of making a few bucks with his investment of $500 and getting his first plane. A cruise above the city would cost anyone 5 bucks. He'd get involved in attending fairs, doing barn-busting and even having the nerve... or stupidity... of walking on the wings of the plane as it roared over the audiences.
In 1924 Charles signed up with the US Army in their Air Reserve Pilot training program. There would be 104 students. All washed out except 18. He was #1 in his class and was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant. But soon the Army came to realize that since not at war, there was not a lot of need for flyers. Charlie then moved on to become a mailman. But with a plane. He worked for awhile shuttling the mails back and forth between Chicago and St Louis. But he soon bored with this job. Flying alone and at night was not his thing.
It was at about this time that Charles started thinking very seriously about entering the contest the papers were always talking so much about. But he had some difficulties to deal with. He had little money and no plane that could make the several thousand mile trip. And who would lend or finance him? No one knew him enough. Others were well known and could get lots of financing. The completion included Admiral Byrd, Igor Sikorsky and Tony Fokker. All well known in aviation circles.
He also felt that what the others were trying or about to tackle were all wrong. He thought that a better route could be determined and that a better designed plane could do the job. A plane with not two...but only one engine. And only one cockpit with a single pilot to keep weight down. He calculated fuel consumption, length of trip, best routes. He took the results of all this planning to several potential backers and airplane builders. Finally he found a small company in California called Ryan, the very giants of the industry today. They would work with him... not for him...whcich was exactly what he wanted. But they needed $10,000 to do the job, and he only had $2,000.
So he went on the road seeking money and finally found some backers. They were so excited they even helped him come up with a name for the plane. It so represented them. That name was.. the Spirit of St Louis.
About 30 men of Ryan's staff worked on the job and within 2 months the plane rolled out the door and was ready for its first test drive.
I'll bring you that run on Friday.