RHINEBECK, N.Y. – The Rhinebeck Aerodrome Museum’s “Spirit of the Aerodrome Gala” celebrated the 89th anniversary of Charles Lindbergh’s transatlantic crossing and the public debut flight of the aerodrome’s reproduction Spirit of St. Louis aircraft.
The aerodrome’s Spirit is an exact copy of the aircraft Lindbergh used to make the historic New York to Paris, non-stop solo flight in 1927, according to aerodrome officials.
On May 21, 2016, the Aerodrome’s Spirit successfully flew to the delight of a crowd of 600 spectators at the Rhinebeck Aerodrome on the anniversary date of Lindbergh’s landing in Paris.
Later that evening, a 1920’s themed gala/fundraiser was attended by just under 150 participants, many donning period attire. The event took place in one of the aerodrome’s hangars, which was prepared for the evening with special lighting, using the Spirit aircraft as the centerpiece.
Two of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s grandchildren, Kristina and Lars Lindbergh (pictured above), were on hand to celebrate and accept an award for their aunt, Reeve Lindbergh, who was unable to attend.
At 5 p.m. a procession of antique vehicles and people dressed in period attire escorted the Spirit down the runway to transport spectators back in time.
The 220 horse-power Wright J-5 engine was started using the original hand-propping method, and the Spirit taxied to the North end of the runway with Ken Cassens as the pilot.
The aircraft leapt into the air to the sound of cheers from the audience and flew for approximately 20 minutes.
The Spirit has no forward visibility due to the large fuel tanks in the forward section of the fuselage which were required to make the 3,600-mile trip, so Cassens brought the Spirit in for a perfect landing using a maneuver known as a “side-slip.” This was accomplished by crabbing the aircraft to one side to provide forward visibility through a window located on the side of the aircraft. The touchdown was greeted with another round of cheers and applause from the crowd.
Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro was honored at the gala for his role in securing some funding for the Spirit project and for raising public awareness of the important role that the Aerodrome plays in tourism for Dutchess County.
In addition to the debut of the Spirit, the Aerodrome also opened its new gift shop on the airfield. This new structure replaces the previous gift shop, which tragically burned to the ground last August due to an electrical fire.
The new gift shop/visitor center incorporates modern restroom facilities, which have been requested by visitors for years, and will make the Aerodrome a more comfortable place for families to visit.
The gift shop was completed and received its certificate of occupancy the day before the event thanks to the dedicated efforts of local contractors, including Mike Hericourt of Ed Hericourt Construction. He and his team put the finishing touches on the building the night before the official opening.
The gala was the kick-off for this year’s airshow season at the aerodrome, with shows taking place every Saturday and Sunday through Oct. 9. Saturday Shows feature the History of Flight. Sunday shows focus on World War I aircraft.