Collection Item Summary:
Charles A. Lindbergh and his wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, purchased this Lockheed Sirius airplane in 1929 for $22,825. Designed by Gerald Vultee and Jack Northrop, the Sirius was a low-wing monoplane with the same monocoque (molded shell) fuselage as the popular Lockheed Vega. Originally an open-cockpit landplane, the Lindberghs' Sirius was modified with a sliding canopy and Edo floats for their two overwater journeys in 1931 and 1933.
The Lindberghs set a coast-to-coast speed record in the Sirius on April 20, 1930, but its most significant flights were in 1931 and 1933. In 1931 the Lindberghs flew to the Orient, proving the viability of traveling from the West to the Far East via the Great Circle route to the North. In 1933 they flew survey flights across the North and South Atlantic to gather information for planning commercial air routes. During their 1933 trip a Greenland Eskimo boy gave the Sirius its nickname: "Tingmissartoq"-"One who flies like a big bird."
Upon returning from their transatlantic trip in late 1933, the Lindberghs donated the "Tingmissartoq" to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. It was displayed in the Hall of Ocean Life until 1955, when it was sent to the United States Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio. After deciding that the Lindberghs' plane did not really represent the Air Force, the Air Force Museum transferred it to the Smithsonian Institution's Air Museum in 1959.
Collection Item Long Description:
A vacation flight with "no start or finish, no diplomatic or commercial significance, and no records to be sought." So Charles A. Lindbergh described the flight that he and his wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, were planning to make to the Orient in 1931. Their choice of route, however, showed the feasibility of using the great circle to reach the Far East.
The Lindberghs flew in a Lockheed Sirius low-wing monoplane, powered by a 680-hp Wright Cyclone. The Sirius had been designed in 1929 by John K. Northrop and Gerard Vultee, and this model was specially fitted with Edo floats, since most of the Lindberghs flight was to be over water.
Their route took them from North Haven, Maine, to Ottawa, Moose Factory, Churchill, Baker Lake, and Aklavik, all in Canada; Point Barrow, Shismaref, and Nome, Alaska; Petropavlosk. Siberia; and on over the Kurile Islands to Japan. After receiving an enthusiastic welcome in Tokyo, they flew to China. They landed on Lotus Lake near Nanking on September 19, thus completing the first flight from the West to the East by way of the North.
At Hankow, the Sirius, with the Lindberghs aboard, was being lowered into the Yangtze River from the British aircraft carrier Hermes, when the aircraft accidentally capsized. One of the wings was damaged when it hit a ship’s cable, and the aircraft had to be returned to the United States for repairs.
Their next venture in the Sirius came as a result of the five countries’ interest in the development of commercial air transport. In 1933 Pan American Airways, Imperial Airways of Great Britain, Lufthansa of Germany, KLM of Holland, and Air France undertook a cooperative study of possible Atlantic routes. Each was assigned the responsibility for one of the following areas: New Newfoundland to Europe via Greenland; Newfoundland via the great circle route to Ireland; Newfoundland southeast to the Azores and Lisbon; Miami, Bermuda, the Azores, and Lisbon; and across the South Atlantic from Natal, Brazil, to Cape Verde, Africa.
Pan American was to survey the Newfoundland to Europe via Greenland route. Ground survey and weather crews in Greenland were already hard at work when Lindbergh, Pan Am’s technical advisor, took off from New York on July 9 in the rebuilt Lockheed Sirius, again accompanied by his wife, who would serve as copilot and radio operator. A Sperry artificial horizon and a directional gyro had been added to the instrument panel since the previous flight, and a new Wright Cyclone SR1820-F2 engine of 710 horsepower was installed. Lindbergh’s plan was not to set up a particular route but to gather as much information as possible on the area to be covered.
The Jellinge, a Danish ship, was chartered by Pan Am to maintain radio contact with the Lindberghs in the Labrador-Greenland-Iceland area. The ship also delivered advance supplies for them to Halifax, Saint John’s, Cartwright, Greenland, and Iceland.
Every possible space in the aircraft was utilized, including the wings and floats, which contained the gasoline tanks. There was plenty of emergency equipment in case the Lindberghs had to make a forced landing in the frozen wilderness.
From New York, the Lindberghs flew up the eastern border of Canada to Hopedale, Labrador. From Hopedale they made the first major overwater hop, 650 miles to Godthaab, Greenland, where the Sirius acquired its name—Tingmissartoq, which in Eskimo means "one who flies like a big bird."
After crisscrossing Greenland to Baffin Island and back, and then on to Iceland, the Lindberghs proceeded to the major cities of Europe and as far east as Moscow, down the west coast of Africa, and across the South Atlantic to South America. where they flew down the Amazon, and then north through Trinidad and Barbados and back to the United States.
They returned to New York on December 19, having traveled 30,000 miles to four continents and twenty-one countries. The information gained from the trip proved invaluable in planning commercial air transport routes for the North and South Atlantic.
The aircraft was in the American Museum of Natural History in New York City until 1955. The AirForce Museum in Dayton, Ohio, then acquired it and transferred it to the Smithsonian in 1959.