Erik Lindbergh, the 36-year-old grandson of the legendary “Lone Eagle,” took
off at about 12:16 p.m. Eastern time from Farmingdale, Long Island, on
Wednesday May 1, slightly east of the Roosevelt Field shopping mall that now
stands where his 25-year-old grandfather departed on May 20, 1927. Erik
Lindbergh arrived at the same Le Bourget airfield near Paris where a
throng of 100,000 people greeted his grandfather. While Charles´ flight took
about 33 hours, Erik´s took about 17 hours. He touched down at 11:30 local time on Thursday, May 2.

“This is about celebrating, not recreating, my grandfather´s flight,” Erik
said, before the flight. Erik´s state-of-the-art New Spirit of St. Louis is made of a glass and
carbon composite and cost
$289,000. It cruises at an average of 184 mph, compared with the 108 mph of
the original
Spirit of St. Louis, built of wood, fabric, and welded steel tubing for
$10,58. Erik had a Global Positioning System device for location. Charles had
no radio and only two compasses for navigation; at one point, he spotted
several small fishing boats and tried to shout at them for directions. Yet
when he reached the coast of Ireland, he was less than 3 miles off course

Erik also made the flight to support the X Prize, a $10 million award
designed to “do for space travel what Charles Lindbergh´s flight did for
aviation.” The X Prize will be awarded to the first team that builds and
flies a three-person vehicle to an altitude of 62 miles twice within a
two-week period. The contest aims to spur the private sector to develop space

“Before my grandfather, anyone who boarded a plane was called a flying fool.
Afterward, they called them passengers,” said Erik, a trustee of the X Prize
Foundation. The $10 million prize is modeled after the $25,000 award that
Charles earned for his 3,600-mile flight. Twenty-one entrants are now
building craft to attempt to claim the $10 million.

Erik, who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, also represents the Arthritis
Foundation. “Five years ago, I could barely walk,” he said. The biotech drug
Enbril and two knee replacements “helped me get my life back. “So although
his flight was shorter, it held special challenges. A stretching regimen
helped lubricate his joints, and a specialized chair from Oregon Arrow kept
him comfortable.

Erik rehearsed survival strategies should his plane, a Lancair Columbia 300, crash in the water.
“But I don´t plan on getting my feet wet,” he said.

What would Erik like to do afterward? “Go to outer space with the winner of
the X Prize,” he said.

Orville (left) and Wilbur Wright

by Brown Brothers, Sterling, PA

Undated photograph of Orville (left) and Wilbur Wright.
Master mechanic Greg Cone

Photograph by Brent Humphreys

Master mechanic Greg Cone wishes he’d lived a century ago, when the workmanship on a 4-cylinder engine was masterful.