Spirit of Saint Louis

Spirit of St. Louis It is an airplane with which the pilot Charles Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic for the first time in the history of aviation in a solo nonstop flight from New York to Paris in 1927 . Although it was recognized as the first flight that crossed the Atlantic, however, the reality is that already in 1922 the Portuguese Gago Coutinho and Sacadura Cabral, had made a flight by the shortest route of the Atlantic , Lisbon – Rio de Janeiro .


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  • 1 History
    • 1 Design and development
    • 2 Travel
  • 2 Features
  • 3 Final Destination of the Spirit of Louis
  • 4 Technical Characteristics
    • 1 General characteristics
    • 2 Emergency equipment carried by the Spirit of St. Louis
  • 5 Gallery
  • 6 See
  • 7 Sources


The plane was manufactured in San Diego, California . The industrialists who financed the transatlantic flight were men from Saint Louis, which is why the plane was named after that city. Lindbergh participated in the design and construction of the device, model Ryan NYP (a modified Ryan M-2), being a project of Donald Hall.

In just two months, the Spirit of St. Louis was finished. It was an airplane with high implantation wings, with a wooden structure. The fuselage was made of steel tubes and the outer skin was made of cloth.

Design and development

Officially known as the Ryan NYP, the aircraft was designed by Donald A. Hall of the Ryan Airlines aircraft factory in San Diego , California . The aircraft was inspired by the Ryan M-2, a mail carrier-built in 1926 , to reduce design time.

However, the Spirit of St. Louis represents a “new design” considering that the Ryan M-2 cannot be redesigned to make the 3,600 flight miles.

Although it was designed for the flight from New York to Paris and built in San Diego , it was given the name Spirit of St. Louis, after the city of St Louis, Missouri, because Lindbergh and the financiers and investors lived in that city. .-


Charles Lindbergh and the Spirit of St. Louis, observe the flags of the countries visited where Cuba appears

The flight was inspired by the $ 25,000 Orteig award for the first non-stop flight between New York and Paris .

Hall and Ryan Airlines staff worked closely with Lindbergh to design and build the single-engine, single-engine monoplane in just sixty days, for a cost of just over $ 10,000 (though the actual cost is unclear, since Mahoney offered the plane “at cost price”).

In the spring of 1927 , several other pilots and crew were also preparing to make the transatlantic flight to compete for the Orteig Prize.

Lindbergh believes that a flight in a small aircraft, designed around the reliability of the Wright J-5C, was the best chance to successfully conclude this adventure.

The Ryan NYP is very different from the others in that it had extra fuel tanks, in order for a much longer distance non-stop journey.

The large main fuel tank was placed in the forward section of the fuselage, in front of the pilot, which improved the aircraft’s center of gravity. The location of fuel tanks at the front of the aircraft will reduce the risk of the pilot. it is crushed to death in an accident, therefore there is no front windshield and the pilot’s view was limited to the side windows.


Detail of the distribution of the main elements of the Spirit of St. Louis

A periscope was installed and attached to the plane on the left to provide a forward view, as a precautionary measure not to hit a ship, trees or structures, while flying at low altitude, however, it is unclear if the periscope It was used during the flight.

Lindbergh also uses special navigation instruments, such as the Earth Compass inductor, which is the main plane of the instrument, which allows Lindbergh to navigate taking into account the magnetic deviation of the earth.

Lindbergh sat in a booth 94 centimeters wide by 32 inches long and 130 centimeters high. The booth was so small, Lindbergh couldn’t stretch his legs.

The Spirit of St. Louis was powered by a 223 horsepower, air-cooled, 9 cylinder Wright J-5C “Whirlwind” engine. The engine was rated for a maximum run time of 9,000 hours (over a year if running continuously).

In the race to win the trophy, a saving of design time was necessary. The original wingspan of the Ryan M2, was increased by 10 feet and redesigned to create a surface large enough to lift 450 gallons (1703 liters) of fuel (carried in five fuel tanks: left, right, middle wing, the nose and in has payload space), along with the only pilot and the minimum necessary.

It was decided that the tail and control surfaces of the aircraft would not be modified from their original Ryan M2 design, thus minimizing the redesign, time that was not available, without delaying the flight. The result was a less stable aircraft than the experienced Lindbergh, however it was approved.

Controversy exists as to whether this unstable design was appropriate as the 40-hour flight estimate would be very difficult in terms of pilot fatigue. More than likely, Hall and Lindbergh have evaluated the advantages and disadvantages of this configuration and determined that an unstable plane would help keep Lindbergh awake. The stiff wicker seat in the cockpit was also purposefully uncomfortable, albeit tailored to the Lindbergh tall. Lindbergh later wrote in his book about how he woke up several times on the plane during the flight.

Lindbergh also insisted that unnecessary weight should be removed. For example, it did not carry a radio in order to save weight. These radial devices were very unreliable at the time. He also refused to bring souvenirs on the transatlantic voyage, insisting that all available grams be dedicated to fuel.


Takeoff: from San Diego in flight to New York . During this journey he breaks a speed record. The 20 of maypole in 1927 he left an airfield in New York , Roosevelt Field, towards Paris . He arrived there 33 hours and 32 minutes later, at 10:22, landing at Le Bourget aerodrome, where he was received with enormous enthusiasm by thousands of people. Lindbergh had flown uninterrupted 3,600 miles.


Contrary to the aircraft of Lindbergh’s competitors , their aircraft was a single engine equipped with a 223 hp Wright Whirlwind J-5C Lindbergh believed that it was better to have a single engine, since a second engine could not keep it in the air if the first one failed. Also, a plane with two or three engines was more prone to failure in one of them.


Interior view of the Spirit of St. Louis

The main fuel tank was housed in front of the command post, as Lindbergh did not want to have it behind and run the risk of being trapped between the engine and the tank in the event of a bad landing. In this way, Lindbergh sacrificed forward visibility, which was reduced to what he could see through a side periscope. The total fuel capacity was 1,705 L, which meant a weight greater than half the total weight of the aircraft, which was 2,380 kg.

The aircraft was designed in all its parts in such a way that it offered minimal air resistance and that its weight was also as low as possible. To do this, many elements that were common in other aircraft were dispensed with, such as the fuel level indicator instrument and the radio set. Even the pilot’s seat was replaced by a lightweight wicker chair.

Final destination of the Spirit of St. Louis


The Spirit of St. Louis at the Air and Space Museum

After completing his flight between America and Europe , aviator Charles Lindbergh continued to use the Spirit of Saint Louis. After returning to the United States aboard the USS Memphis with his plane (came back on November of June of 1927 , 22 days after having landed at Le Bourget), Lindbergh toured 82 US cities between on July 20 and the 23 of October of 1927 and then from December 13 , he flew to Mexico , following Colombia and Venezuela with stops in intermediate countries, before returning byPuerto Rico and Cuba to St. Louis. During this tour he met what would be his wife.

The 30 of April of 1928 , when it was three weeks before the first anniversary of his flight was accomplished, he moved the plane New York to Washington DC , where he donated to the Museum of Air and Space Smithsonian, where today remains exposed.

Technical characteristics


The Three Views of the Spirit of St. Luis

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1
  • Wingspan: 14 m (46 ft)
  • Length: 8 m (27 ft 8 in)
  • Height: 3 m (9 ft 10 in)
  • Wing area: 29.7 m 2(320 ft 2 )
  • Wing Profile: Clark Y
  • Gross Weight: 2,330 kg (5,135 lbs)
  • Empty weight: 975 kg (2,150 lb)
  • Fuel Weight: 450 gal (1703 Lb)
  • Engine: Wright J-5C Whirlwind, 223 hp
  • Manufacturer: Ryan Airlines Co., San Diego, California , 1927
  • Maximum speed: 220 km / h (133 mph)
  • Cruising Speed: 160-175 km / h (100-110 mph)
  • Range: 6,600 km (4,100 mi)
  • Service altitude: 5000 m (16,400 ft)
  • Wing loading: 78 kg / m 2(16 lb / ft 2 )
  • Power / weight: 10.4 kg / hp (23 lb / hp)

Emergency kit carried by the Spirit of St. Louis

The following emergency kit was carried in the Spirit of St. Louis on the flights between San Diego and Paris.

  • An air raft, with pump and repair kit
  • A 4 quart water dining room
  • 1 cup Armbrust
  • 5 cans of Army emergency rations
  • A hunting knife
  • A ball of string
  • A ball of yarn
  • A large needle
  • A flashlight
  • 4 red flares, sealed in rubber tubes

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