Memories, smiles, and new-found respect for Charles Lindbergh’s feat were the experiences of eight lucky people who won a rare opportunity to experience what few others have known: a flight and some stick time in the Experimental Aircraft Association‘s “Spirit of St. Louis” reproduction. The rides were offered in a Lindbergh Foundation on-line auction that took place May 15 through 17.
“The Spirit is a great storyteller,” said Spirit pilot Sean Elliott, director of aircraft operations at EAA. “If you read all the books written about the Spirit, they still don’t prepare you for the experience of what Lindbergh did when he flew that plane for 33 ½ hours.”
Larry Williams of Ballistic Recovery Systems, Inc., St. Paul, Minn., said, “I was awestruck to learn how unstable the aircraft is and how, to keep it flying, you need constant input and diligence.”
Linden Blue of Spectrum Aeronautical, San Diego, Calif., said, “It was a big thrill to fly the Spirit and fly it from the seat that Lindbergh sat in. It allows me to better project what he went through. I have even greater respect for his airmanship after having seen how unstable the airplane is. There is no way it could get certified today. You have to fly it every second.”
The poor visibility from the aircraft is another eye-opener for those who get a ride in the plane. Not only was Lindbergh an aviation pioneer, but he was at the forefront of instrument flying. With no forward vision available, Lindbergh navigated his way to Paris largely relying on instruments. His Earth Inductor Compass, invented in 1924, was a very sophisticated instrument for the time.
“I found the ailerons heavy, relatively unresponsive, and they created considerable adverse yaw,” said Jeff Loeffler of Wyoming, Minn. “It helped to have a well-developed forearm and responsive feet,” he joked. “Flying over the Wisconsin fields, I couldn’t help drifting into thoughts of yesteryear and trying to imagine what it was like to occupy that seat over the Atlantic in 1927.”
Jesse Easudes of Pittsburg, Penna., is a lifelong admirer of Charles Lindbergh and a pilot with a deep affection for the Golden Age of aviation. Easudes said he never dreamed he would have a chance to fly in the Spirit of St. Louis. In fact, he didn’t bid on a ride for himself. He hoped to win a flight for a friend, Ev Cassagneres, a worldwide expert on the Spirit of St. Louis, who has written two books about airplane. When Cassagneres was unable to accept the ride, and Easudes was unable to go himself, he offered the ride to another friend, David Troup. Troup accepted and returned the favor by flying his friend to Wisconsin so both could experience the flight of a lifetime.
“To hear about its handling characteristics is one thing but to actually experience them as a passenger and finally as pilot is quite another,” said Easudes. “Although I would have thought it difficult to do, this airplane increased the already tremendous respect I have for Lindbergh.”
“The Lindbergh Foundation is extremely grateful to EAA for making the Spirit available to us for our auction,” said Foundation Chairman John King. “The Spirit is one of the most recognizable airplanes in the world. We are delighted to have made some dreams come true for a few very lucky people and we thank them for participating in our auction.”
For information: www.lindberghfoundation.org