A Plane Flight—and a Great Crash
It is 1919, just sixteen years after Orville Wright took off from a sand dune at Kitty Hawk and people are now actually flying like birds. No one knows where flight is headed, but a wealthy hotel owner offers $25,000 to anyone who can go nonstop from New York to Paris. It's a lot of money. Several pilots try. None make it. By 1927, the competition is getting fierce. In April the well-known explorer Richard Byrd takes off, crashes and breaks his wrist. Two pilots set out from Virginia, crash and are killed. A plane sets off from France and is never heard of again. Richard Byrd is eager to try again. He readies a three-engine plane. Another team is also planning to go for it. A third contestant has a frail single-engine craft called the Spirit of St. Louis he intends to go it alone. The pilot, Charles Lindbergh, is a little known barnstormera pilot who does trick flying and takes people on plane rides for five dollars a spin. On May 20 he heads out to sea. The weather is awful. He carries only a quart of water, a sack of sandwiches, and a rubber raft.
As Lindbergh flies over the Atlantic, people around the world follow him on their radios. And then there is nothing to hear. That evening, during a boxing match at Yankee Stadium in New York, the spectators rise and say a prayer for Charles Lindbergh, somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean. Lindbergh struggles to stay awake. Then, miraculously, the fatigue ends. He looks down and sees some boats. Here are his own words about it: "I saw a fleet of fishing boats. I flew down almost touching the craft and yelled at them, asking if I was on the right road to Ireland. They just stared. Maybe they didn't hear me. Maybe I didn't hear them. Or maybe they thought I was just a crazy fool. An hour later I saw land."