Spirit of St. Louis
|Spirit of St. Louis
|Role||Long-range aircraft [for record attempt]|
|Designer||Donald A. Hall|
|First flight||April 28, 1927|
|Retired||April 30, 1928|
|Primary user||Charles Lindbergh|
|Developed from||Ryan M-2|
|First flight||April 28, 1927|
|Total hours||489 hours, 28 minutes|
|Preserved at||National Air and Space Museum|
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). One of the best known aircraft in the world, the Spirit was built by Ryan Airlines in San Diego, California, which at the time was owned and operated by Benjamin Franklin Mahoney who had purchased it from its founder, T. Claude Ryan, in 1926.
Design and development
Officially known as the Ryan NYP (for New York to Paris), the single engine monoplane was designed by Donald A. Hall of Ryan Airlines and was named The Spirit of St. Louis in honor of Lindbergh's supporters from The St. Louis Raquette Club in his then hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. To save design time, the NYP was loosely based on the company's 1926 Ryan M-2 mailplane with the main difference being the 4,000 mile range of the NYP, and as a non-standard design the Government assigned it the registration number N-X-211 (for "experimental"). Hall documented his design in "Engineering Data on the Spirit of St. Louis" which he prepared for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) and is included as an appendix to Lindbergh's 1953 Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Spirit of St. Louis.
B.F. "Frank" Mahoney and Claude Ryan had co-founded the company as an airline in 1925 and the latter remained with the company after Mahoney bought out his interest in 1926 although there is some dispute as to how involved Ryan may have been in its management after selling his share. It is known, however, that Hawley Bowlus was the factory manager who oversaw construction of the Ryan NYP, and that Mahoney was the sole owner at the time of Donald A. Hall's hiring. Although the "Spirit" was designed and built in San Diego for a flight from New York to Paris, it was named after the city of St. Louis, Missouri because both Lindbergh and his financial backers lived in that city.
The Spirit was designed and built to compete for the $25,000 Orteig Prize for the first non-stop flight between New York and Paris which Lindbergh would win in the single engine monoplane. Hall and Ryan Airlines' staff worked closely with Lindbergh to design and build the Spirit in just 60 days. Although what was actually paid to Ryan Airlines for the project isn't clear, Mahoney offered to do it "at cost". After first approaching several major aircraft manufacturers without success, in early February 1927, Lindbergh, who as a U.S. Air Mail pilot familiar with the good record of the M-1 with Pacific Air Transport, wired, "Can you construct Whirlwind engine plane capable flying nonstop between New York and Paris ...?"
Mahoney was away from the factory, but Claude Ryan answered, "Can build plane similar M-1 but larger wings... delivery about three months." Lindbergh wired back that due to competition, delivery in less than three months was essential. Many years later, Jon van der Linde, chief mechanic of Ryan Airlines, recalled, "But nothing fazed B.F. Mahoney, the young sportsman who had just bought Ryan." Mahoney boldly telegraphed Lindbergh back the same day: "Can complete in two months."
Lindbergh arrived in San Diego on February 23 and toured the factory with Mahoney meeting factory manager Hawley Bowlus, chief engineer Donald Hall, and sales manager A.J. Edwards. After further discussions between Mahoney, Hall and Lindbergh, Mahoney offered to build the Spirit for $10,580, restating his commitment to deliver it in 60 days.
Lindbergh was convinced: "I believe in Hall's ability; I like Mahoney's enthusiasm. I have confidence in the character of the workmen I've met." He then went to the airfield to familiarize himself with a Ryan aircraft, either an M-1 or an M-2, then telegraphed his St. Louis backers and recommended the deal, which was quickly approved.
Mahoney lived up to his commitment. Working exclusively on the aircraft and closely with Lindbergh, the staff completed the Spirit of St. Louis 60 days after Lindbergh arrived in San Diego. Powered by a Wright Whirlwind J-5C 223-hp radial engine, it had a 46-foot wingspan, 10 feet longer than the M-1, to accommodate the heavy load of 425 gallons of fuel. In his 1927 book We, Lindbergh acknowledged the achievement of the builders with a photograph captioned "The Men Who Made The Plane," identifying: "B. Franklin Mahoney, President, Ryan Airlines," Bowlus, Hall and Edwards standing with the aviator in front of the completed aircraft.
Lindbergh believed that multiple engines resulted in a greater chance of failure while a single engine design would give him greater range. To increase fuel efficiency, the Spirit of St. Louis was also one of the most advanced and aerodynamically streamlined designs of its era.
Lindbergh believed that a flight made in a single-seat monoplane designed around the dependable Wright J-5C "Whirlwind" radial engine provided the best chance of success. The Ryan NYP had a total fuel capacity of 450 U.S. gallons (1,700 L; 370 imp gal) or 2,710 pounds (1,230 kg) which was necessary in order to have the range to make the anticipated flight non-stop. The fuel was stored in five fuel tanks, a forward tank (88 gallons), the main (209 gallons), and three wing tanks with a total of 153 gallons).
At Lindbergh's request, the large main and forward fuel tanks were placed in the forward section of the fuselage, in front of the pilot, with the oil tank acting as a firewall. This arrangement improved the center of gravity and reduced the risk of the pilot being crushed to death between the main tank and the engine in the event of a crash. This design decision meant that there could be no front windshield, and that forward visibility would be limited to the side windows. This didn't concern Lindbergh as he was used to flying in the rear cockpit of mail planes with mail bags in the front. When he wanted to see forward, he would slightly yaw the plane and look out the side. To provide some forward vision as a precaution against hitting ship masts, trees, or structures while flying at low altitude a Ryan employee who had served in the submarine service installed a periscope. It is unclear whether the periscope was used during the flight. The instrument panel housed fuel pressure, oil pressure and temperature gauges, a clock, altimeter, tachometer, airspeed indicator, bank and turn indicator, and liquid magnetic compass. Lindbergh also installed a newly developed Earth Inductor Compass made by the Pioneer Instrument Company which allowed him to more accurately navigate while taking account of the magnetic declination of the earth.
Lindbergh sat in a cramped cockpit which was 94 cm wide, 81 cm long and 130 cm high (36 in × 32 in × 51 in). The cockpit was so small, Lindbergh could not stretch his legs. The Spirit of St. Louis was powered by a 223-horsepower (166 kW), air-cooled, 9-cylinder Wright J-5C "Whirlwind" radial engine. The engine was rated for a maximum operating time of 9,000 hours (more than one year if operated continuously), and had a special mechanism that could keep it clean for the entire New York-to-Paris flight. It was also, for its day, very fuel-efficient, enabling longer flights carrying less fuel weight for given distances.[N 1] Another key feature of the Whirlwind radial engine was that it was rated to self-lubricate the engine's valves for 40 hours continuously. Lubricating, or "greasing," the moving external engine parts was a necessity most aeronautical engines of the day required, to be done manually by the pilot or ground crew prior to every flight and would have been otherwise required somehow to be done during the long flight.
The engine was built at Wright Aeronautical in Paterson, New Jersey by a 24-year old engine builder, Tom Rutledge, who was disappointed that he was assigned to the unknown aviator Charles Lindbergh. Four days after the flight, he received a letter of congratulations from the Wright management.[N 2] His estate owns pictures of historical interest for sale.
The race to win the Prize required time-saving design compromises. The original wingspan of the Ryan M2 was increased by 10 ft and redesigned to create a surface area large enough to lift 450 U.S. gallons of fuel (carried in five fuel tanks: left wing, right wing, mid wing, nose, and in available payload space) along with the lone pilot and minimum necessary gear.
However, Donald A. Hall decided that the empennage (tail assembly) and wing control surfaces would not be altered from his original Ryan M-2 design, thus minimizing redesign time that was not available without delaying the flight. The result was less aerodynamic stability; nevertheless the experienced Lindbergh approved the unaltered design. This setup resulted in a negatively stable design that tended to randomly introduce unanticipated pitch, yaw, and bank (roll) elements into its overall flight characteristics. There is dispute regarding whether Hall and Lindbergh also preferred this design because they anticipated that the continuous corrections to the random movements of the aircraft would help to keep Lindbergh awake during the estimated 40-hour flight. Whether or not the unstable design was deliberately retained to help fight fatigue, Lindbergh did later write how these random unanticipated movements helped keep him awake at various times during the flight. The stiff wicker seat in the cockpit was also purposely uncomfortable, although custom fitted to Lindbergh's tall and lanky frame.
Lindbergh also insisted that unnecessary weight be eliminated, even going so far as to cut the top and bottom off of his flight map. He carried no radio in order to save weight and because the radios of the period would have been unreliable and difficult to use while flying solo. Also, although he was an airmail pilot, he refused to carry souvenir letters on the transatlantic journey, insisting that every spare ounce be devoted to fuel. The fuselage was made of treated fabric over a metal tube frame, while the wings were made of fabric over a wood frame.
A small, left-facing Indian-style swastika was painted on the inside of the original propeller spinner of the Spirit of St. Louis along with the names of all the Ryan Aircraft Co. employees who designed and built it. It was meant as a message of good luck prior to Lindbergh's solo Atlantic crossing as the symbol was often used as a popular good luck charm with early aviators and others.[N 3] The inside of the original propeller spinner can be viewed at the National Air and Space Museum. This propeller spinner was found to be cracked when Lindbergh arrived at New York prior to his transatlantic flight. The propeller spinner that is on the Spirit of St. Louis now, was hastily made in New York to replace the cracked original and was on the aircraft during the transatlantic flight.
Later history and conservation
Lindbergh's New York-to-Paris flight made him an instant celebrity and media star. In winning the Orteig Prize, Lindbergh stirred the public's imagination. He wrote: "I was astonished at the effect my successful landing in France had on the nations of the world. It was like a match lighting a bonfire." Lindbergh subsequently flew the Spirit of St. Louis to Belgium and England before President Calvin Coolidge sent the light cruiser Memphis to bring them back to the United States. Arriving on June 11, Lindbergh and the Spirit were escorted up the Potomac River to Washington, D.C., by a fleet of warships, multiple flights of military pursuit aircraft, bombers, and the rigid airship Los Angeles where President Coolidge presented the 25-year-old U.S. Army Reserve aviator with the Distinguished Flying Cross.
On the same day, the U.S Post Office issued a commemorative 10-cent "Lindbergh Air Mail" stamp depicting the Spirit over a map of its flight from New York to Paris, and which was also the first stamp issued by the post office that bore the name of a living person.
Over the next 10 months, Lindbergh flew the Spirit of St. Louis on promotional and goodwill tours across the United States and Latin America. Not long after his return to the U.S. Lindbergh met his old barnstorming pal, Bud Gurney (1906–1982). He allowed Gurney to fly the Spirit on a short hop. Gurney gave his opinion to Lindbergh of how it handled in comparison to their old Jennies from 1923. Gurney is the only other person besides Lindbergh to have flown The Spirit of St. Louis.
Just one year and two days after making their first flight at Dutch Flats in San Diego, California, on April 28, 1927, Lindbergh and the Spirit of St. Louis flew together for the final time while making a hop from St. Louis to Bolling Field, in Washington, D.C., on April 30, 1928. There he presented his monoplane to the Smithsonian Institution where for more than eight decades it has been on display, today hanging in the atrium of the National Air and Space Museum alongside the Bell X-1 and SpaceShipOne. At the time of its retirement, the Spirit had made 174 flights for a total of 489:28 flying time.
While in other respects the Spirit of St. Louis appears today much as it appeared on its accession into the Smithsonian collection in 1928, the gold color of the aircraft's aluminum nose panels is an artifact of well-intended early conservation efforts. Not long after the museum took possession of the Spirit, conservators applied a clear layer of varnish or shellac to the forward panels in an attempt to preserve the flags and other artwork painted on the engine cowling. This protective coating has yellowed with age, resulting in the golden hue seen today. Smithsonian officials have indicated that the varnish will be removed, and the nose panels restored to their original silver appearance, the next time the aircraft is taken down for conservation.[N 4]
Further developed types
NYP-2, an exact duplicate of the Spirit of St. Louis, was built 45 days after the transatlantic flight, for the Japanese newspaper Mainichi. The NYP-2 carrying serial number 29 was registered as J-BACC and achieved a number of record-breaking flights early in 1928 before a crash ended its career.
Although Ryan capitalized on the notoriety of the NYP special, further developments were only superficially comparable to the Spirit of St. Louis. An offshoot of the Ryan B-1 Brougham emerged as a five-seater with the same J-5 engine but modified with a conventional cockpit layout and a shorter wingspan. Under the newly restructured B.F. Mahoney Company, further development continued with the six-place Model B-7 utilizing a 420 hp engine and the Model C-1 with the basic 220 hp engine. In 1928, Mahoney built a B-1X as a gift for Charles Lindbergh.
The 1938 Paramount film Men with Wings starring Ray Milland featured a reproduction of the Spirit of St. Louis fashioned from a Ryan B-1 "Brougham" similar to one presented to Lindbergh by the manufacturer, the Mahoney Aircraft Corporation, shortly after the Spirit was retired in April 1928. All three[clarification needed] reproductions survived with B-153 on display at the Missouri History Museum, in St. Louis, B-156 is part of the collection at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, and B-159 belongs to the Cradle of Aviation Museum located in Garden City, Long Island, New York, not far from the site of Roosevelt Field from which the original departed in 1927. Reputed to have been flown by Lindbergh during the film's production, the connection to Lindbergh is now considered a myth. A 90% static reproduction was also built in 1956 for the film The Spirit of St Louis by the Warner Brothers Movie studio which is now on display at the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport.
Through the efforts of both staff and volunteers, the Experimental Aircraft Association in Oshkosh, Wisconsin produced two reproductions of theSpirit of St. Louis, powered by Continental R-670-4 radial engines, the first in 1977 (the first of which was to be based on a conversion from a B-1 Brougham; the aircraft proved to be too badly deteriorated to be used in that manner) to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic Ocean and subsequent tour of the United States. This example is now on display in the main museum gallery. A second reproduction, started from scratch in 1977 and first flown in November 1990, continues to fly at air shows and commemorative events. Both of the EAA reproductions were registered under the original's N-X-211.
On the 40th anniversary of Lindbergh's flight a new reproduction was built by Frank Tallman. It first flew on April 24, 1967 and was named Spirit 2. Spirit 2 appeared at the 1967 Paris Air Show and made several flights over Paris. In 1972, Spirit 2 was bought for $50,000 by the San Diego Air & Space Museum (formerly San Diego Aerospace Museum) and placed on public display until it was destroyed by arson in 1978. The museum built a replacement named Spirit 3 which first flew on April 28, 1979; it made seven flights before being placed on display. In August 2003, the Spirit 3 was removed from display and was flown as a 75th Anniversary tribute to Lindbergh. The aircraft is now on display in the museum's rotunda.
Another airworthy reproduction was built by David Cannavo and first flown in 1979, powered by a Lycoming R-680 engine. In 1995, it was bought by Kermit Weeks for his Fantasy of Flight Museum in Polk City, Florida.
Another Spirit of St. Louis static reproduction was built in 2002 and is on display at the Lambert-Saint Louis International Airport. The Octave Chanute Aerospace Museum at Rantoul, Illinois has a static reproduction built by museum volunteers. Two reproductions are also found in Germany, one at the Frankfurt International Airport with the second in a private collection. Another European-based reproduction of the Spirit (Registration ES-XCL), which had been built and certified in Estonia in 1997, was written off when structural failure shortly after taking off at an air show in Coventry, England on May 31, 2003, resulted in a fatal crash killing its owner-pilot, veteran (22,000+ hours) Swedish Saab 340 captain Pierre Holländer. [N 5]
A still-unfinished Spirit reproduction, intended to eventually be flyable that is owned by Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome and mostly built by former ORA pilot Ken Cassens, still needs its wing covered with doped fabric and is said to have more original, and still functional 1920s-era flight instruments, that match the ones in the original at the NASM, more than any other reproduction of the Spirit yet built.
Specifications (Ryan NYP)
- Crew: One
- Length: 27 ft 7 in (8.4 m)
- Wingspan: 46 ft (14 m)
- Height: 9 ft 10 in (3 m)
- Wing area: 320 ft² (29.7 m²)
- Airfoil: Clark Y
- Empty weight: 2,150 lb (975 kg)
- Loaded weight: 2,888 lb (1,310 kg)
- Useful load: 450 gal (1,703 l)
- Max. takeoff weight: 5,135 lb (2,330 kg)
- Powerplant: 1 × Wright Whirlwind J-5C Single blade Standard Steel Propeller, 223 hp (166 kW)
- Maximum speed: 133 mph (214 km/h)
- Cruise speed: 100-110 mph (161-177 km/h)
- Range: 4,100 mi (6,600 km)
- Service ceiling: 16,400 ft (5,000 m)
- Rate of climb: Considered ()
- Wing loading: 16 lb/ft² (78 kg/m²)
- Power/mass: 23 lb/hp (10.4 kg/hp)
The Spirit of St. Louis on display in the National Air and Space Museum
Spirit of St. Louis model at San Diego International Airport
- Related development
- Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
- Note: The "History Detectives" (Season 3, Episode 1; Season 4, Episode 5) PBS program confirms through three documents and interviews of several experts that the uncle of two brothers, now in possession of the letter (image on first reference), did indeed build the J5 rotary aeronautical engine of the Spirit of St. Louis.
- See photo of the letter of congratulations on this site.
- During this period, the swastika (which has neolithic origins) was a widely used symbol of good luck and was not yet associated in the United States with the German Nazi Party which was still a largely unknown organization outside of Europe at this time.
- Direct correspondence with Dr. F. Robert van der Linden, Chairman, Aeronautics Division at the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution in response to a direct inquiry to their Archives department about this matter. Dr. van der Linden is the curator responsible for the Spirit of St. Louis. His response verbatim:
The nose of the Spirit of St. Louis is a golden color because of a well-intentioned but mistaken attempt by us to preserve the markings on the cowling. We don’t know exactly when, but soon after the Smithsonian acquired the Spirit in May 1928, we sought to preserve the markings by applying a clear coat of varnish or shellac. Unfortunately, over the years, this coating has yellowed with age. While it has taken on a beautiful golden hue, the color is wrong. The aluminum cowling should be in its natural silver color. In the future, when we next conserve the aircraft, we will carefully remove the coating. This can be done by a painting conservator. Until then, the Spirit will keep its golden nose.
- Even though the airframe only had 191 total hours, the accident investigation revealed the cause of the crash to be a metal fatigue failure of the starboard wing's "wishbone" strut resulting from a faulty weld.
- Schiff's article gives history of the Spirit and Lindbergh's transatlantic flight, technical details of the aircraft, and a pilot's narrative of flying a replica.
- "National Air and Space Museum, Milestones of Flight Exhibits: Spirit of St. Louis." Nasm.si.edu, May 21, 2007. Retrieved: July 29, 2009.
- Jackson 2012, pp. 512–516.
- Tekulsky, Joseph D. "B.F. Mahoney." charleslindbergh.com. Retrieved: May 21, 2012.
- Bak 2011, p. 134.
- Bak 2011, p. 135.
- "History Detectives: Lindbergh Engine (Season 3, Episode 1; Season 4, Episode 5)." PBS, "World" timeslot, first airdate: May 11, 2008.
- "Non-Lindbergh foundation webpage on Tom Rutledge." Photos from the estate of Tom Rutledge. Retrieved: May 11, 2008.
- "Pictures of historical interest." charleslindbergh.com. Retrieved: July 29, 2009.
- Cassagneres 2002, p. 44.
- Lindbergh 1953, p. 362.
- Nevin 1980, p. 99.
- Lindbergh 1927, pp. 267–268.
- Lindbergh Alone - May 21, 1927 by Brendan Gill c.1980 (Harcourt 1st Edition, May 1980)
- Reynolds, Quentin. "The Bold Victory of a Man Alone." The New York Times, The New York Times Review of Books, September 13, 1953.
- Bowers 1967, p. 71.
- "Charles Lindbergh and his Ryan Brougham B-1X (NX4215)." Digitalimageservices.com.
- Cassagneres 2002, p. 140.
- Tekulsky, Joseph D. "B.F. Mahoney was the 'mystery man' behind the Ryan company that built Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis." Spirit of St. Louis (SOS2)Project, 2009. Retrieved: April 6, 2009.
- Cassagneres 2002, pp. 142–143.
- Cassagneres 2002, p. 143.
- Simpson 2003, p. 66.
- "Spirit of St Louis REplica Takes to the Sky". Air Progress: 24. April 1991.
- Cassagneres 2002, pp. 143–145.
- Cassagneres 2002, p. 146.
- "Pilot killed in air show crash." BBC News, June 1, 2003.
- "Accident Report, Spirit of St Louis Replica (Ryan M1/M2 NYP), ES-XCL." Civil Aviation Authority, February 12, 2004.
- "Last flight image of 'Spirit of St. Louis' replica ES-XCL at Coventry, England, May 31, 2003." airliners.net. Retrieved: September 27, 2010.
- Hall 1927
- Schiff, Barry. "The Spirit Flies On: Remembering the Flight that Changed the Course of History." AOPA Pilot, May 2002. Retrieved: May 18, 2007.
- Bak, Richard. The Big Jump: Lindbergh and the Great Atlantic Air Race. Hoboken, New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2011. ISBN 978-0-471-47752-5.
- Bowers, Peter M. "The Many Splendid Spirits of St. Louis." Air Progress, Volume 20, No. 6, June 1967.
- Cassagneres, Ev. The Untold Story of the Spirit of St. Louis: From the Drawing Board to the Smithsonian. New Brighton, Minnesota: Flying Book International, 2002. ISBN 0-911139-32-X.
- Hall, Donald A. Technical Preparation of the Airplane "Spirit of St. Louis" N.A.C.A. Technical Note #257 Washington, DC: National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, July 1927. Retrieved: May 18, 2007.
- Hall, Nova S. Spirit and Creator: The Mysterious Man Behind Lindbergh's Flight to Paris. Sheffield, Maryland: ATN Publishing, 2002. ISBN 0-9702964-4-4.
- Hardwick, Jack and Ed Schnepf. "A Viewer's Guide to Aviation Movies." The Making of the Great Aviation Films. General Aviation Series, Volume 2, 1989.
- Jackson, Joe. Atlantic Fever: Lindbergh, His Competitors, and the Race to Cross the Atlantic. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012. ISBN 978-0-37410-675-1.
- Lindbergh, Charles A. Spirit of St. Louis. New York: Scribners, 1953.
- Nevin, David, ed. The Pathfinders (The Epic of Flight, v. 2). Alexandria, Virginia: Time-Life Books, 1980. ISBN 0-8094-3256-0.
- Simpson, Rod. "Preserving the Spirit". Air-Britain Aviation World, Volume 55, no. 4, 2003. ISSN 0950-7434.
- Wohl, Robert. The Spectacle of Flight: Aviation and the Western Imagination, 1920–1950. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2005. ISBN 0-300-10692-0.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Spirit of St. Louis.|
- NYP Spirit of St. Louis, Charles A. Lindbergh - Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
- The Spirit of St. Louis, charleslindbergh.com
- Lindbergh's Transatlantic Flight: New York to Paris Timeline, May 20-21, 1927, charleslindbergh.com
- Photo Archive by Donald A. Hall: Designer of the Spirit of St. Louis, charleslindbergh.com
- Raymond Orteig-$25,000 prize, charleslindbergh.com
- "Lindbergh's Great Partner", Popular Science, August 1927 pp. 12–13/123-125, one of earliest articles on Spirit of St. Louis.
- B.F. Mahoney was the "mystery man" behind the Ryan company that built Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis
- The Spirit of St. Louis airborne over Paris as Lindbergh leaves for Belgium, the next stop after a few days in France(flickr)(large detailed picture, if it won't reduce just hit 'refresh' button)