Smithsonian National Air and Space MuseumPioneers of Flight

Civilian Aviation

First Solo Nonstop Transatlantic Flight

Lindbergh takes off from Roosevelt Field

Lindbergh takes off from Roosevelt Field. Charles Lindbergh and the Spirit of St. Louis depart from Roosevelt Field. Nearly 1,000 people assembled at Roosevelt Field to see Charles Lindbergh off on his historic flight. Underwood and Underwood.

On May 21, 1927, Charles A. Lindbergh completed the first solo, nonstop transatlantic flight in history, flying his Spirit of St. Louis from Long Island, New York, to Paris, France.

The Transatlantic Flight
In 1919 New York hotel owner Raymond Orteig offered a $25,000 prize for the completion of the first nonstop flight between New York and Paris. Early in 1927, Charles Lindbergh obtained the backing of nine St. Louis investors to compete for the prize. Lindbergh contacted Ryan Airlines in San Diego to build an airplane for the flight. To honor his supporters, he named it the Spirit of St. Louis. When he successfully reached Paris, Lindbergh became a world hero who would remain in the public eye for decades. His flight touched off the "Lindbergh boom" in aviation—aircraft industry stocks rose in value, and interest in flying skyrocketed

Charles Lindbergh in Spirit of St. Louis

Portrait of Charles A. Lindbergh leaning from the cockpit window of his Ryan NYP Spirit of St. Louis before his solo flight from New York to Paris on May 20-21, 1927.

Who Was Charles Lindbergh?
Charles Lindbergh first became interested in flight after World War I and became a barnstorming pilot in the Midwest. In 1924 he enlisted in the Army Air Service and became a reserve officer in the Missouri National Guard. The next year he was hired as chief pilot for the Robertson Aircraft Corporation, which flew the air mail between St. Louis and Chicago.

Lindbergh's historic solo transatlantic flight in the Spirit of St. Louis in 1927 changed the face of aviation and brought him international honors and acclaim. His subsequent air tours in the Spirit of St. Louis of the United States and Latin America, and his work as an advisor for Pan American Airways and Transcontinental Air Transport, helped establish U.S. transcontinental and intercontinental air route systems.

Spirit of St. Louis
The Spirit of St. Louis was a highly modified Ryan M-2 monoplane built specially for Lindbergh's solo transatlantic flight. "NYP" stands for "New York-Paris." Lindbergh named the plane in honor of his supporters in St. Louis, Missouri, who paid for the aircraft.

Ryan NYP Spirit of St. Louis

This dramatic photograph is of the Spirit of St. Louis as it hangs in the west end of the National Air and Space Museum during the refurbishment of the Milestones of Flight gallery in 2000 and 2001.

Wingspan: 14 m (46 ft)
Length: 8 m (27 ft 8 in)
Height: 3 m (9 ft 10 in)
Weight, gross: 2,330 kg (5,135 lb)
Weight, empty: 975 kg (2,150 lb)
Engine: Wright Whirlwind J-5C, 223 hp
Manufacturer: Ryan Airlines Co., San Diego, Calif., 1927

More about the Spirit of St. Louis

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