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On this day in history, May 20, 1927, Charles Lindbergh departs for first solo nonstop flight across Atlantic

Aviator Charles Lindbergh began his historic solo transatlantic flight on this day in history, May 20, 1927. 

Departing from Roosevelt Field on Long Island, New York, just before 8 a.m. on May 20, Lindbergh would spend the next 33-and-a-half hours in the air before landing safely at Le Bourget Airdrome, Paris, at 10:22 p.m. local time on May 21, according to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s website.

A sizable crowd in France was waiting for Lindbergh’s arrival. 

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Lindbergh, along with other legendary aviators of the time, took Orteig up on his offer, notes the History Channel. 

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Lindbergh received backing for his historic flight from nine investors from St. Louis, said the Smithsonian, and as a token of appreciation he named his airplane the Spirit of St. Louis.

Additionally, Lindbergh kept the windows to his plane open for the entire trip, according to the Smithsonian website. 

The Spirit of St. Louis can be seen at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. 

These apparitions, Lindbergh said, “spoke to him and offered words of wisdom for his journey.” 

vintage charles lindbergh

Charles Lindbergh and Grover Whalen, chairman of the reception committee, in the speaker’s stand at Roosevelt Field.  (Getty Images)

Lindbergh became an instant celebrity and national hero upon his safe arrival in France. He was nicknamed “Lucky Lindy” and the “Lone Eagle,” notes CharlesLindbergh.com. 

President Calvin Coolidge arranged for his transport back to the United States (by boat, not by plane) and he received a ticker-tape parade in New York City and the Congressional Medal of Honor, said the History Channel website. 

aviation retro charles lindbergh

Charles Lindbergh preparing to begin his historic flight to France. (Getty Images)

Born in Detroit in 1902, Lindbergh began flying professionally at the age of 20 as a “barnstormer” — essentially a daredevil, said CharlesLindbergh.com. He enlisted in the United States Army in 1924, aiming to become an Army Air Service Reserve pilot.

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At the time, the U.S. Air Force was not yet a separate branch of the military. 

In 2023, a nonstop flight from New York’s JFK Airport to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport lasts about seven hours and 30 minutes, said Air France’s website. 

The return flight is just a hair longer, coming in at just about eight hours. 

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