The San Diego Aerospace Museum's replica of the Spirit of
St. Louis has been sitting pretty at the museum's entrance
since June of 1980. This month, it will take flight once more, if
all goes according to plan.
The Spirit is scheduled to fly Saturday,
August 16, 2003 as part of a joint observance of the Centennial of
Flight and the 75th anniversary of Lindbergh Field by the San Diego
Aerospace Museum and the San Diego County Regional Airport
Authority. (The Airport Authority is the operator of San Diego
International Airport's Lindbergh Field, which is the first
commercial venture Charles Lindbergh ever endorsed. The airport was
dedicated in his honor on August 16, 1928.)
The Museum's Spirit, a replica of Charles Lindbergh's
Spirit of St Louis, in which he made the first non-stop
solo transatlantic flight, flying 3,610 miles from Long Island, New
York, to Paris, in 1927 is the only flying replica known to
The only one? What about EAA's, and Fantasy of Flight's?
San Diego Aerospace Museum Executive
Director Bruce A. Bleakley pointed out that, by definition, the
Museum's 1979 Ryan Model NYP (for "New York to Paris") is a true
replica because it was built with the assistance of three people
who helped craft the original version 52 years earlier. Three
members of the original Ryan Airlines team -- Ed Morrow, John Van
Der Linde, and T. Claude Ryan himself -- supervised the aircraft's
construction by the Museum's restoration volunteers. The plane's
wooden fuel tank structure still bears their signatures.
The Museum's replica has a nine-cylinder, 233-horsepower Wright
Whirlwind J-5A radial engine nearly identical to the one on the
original aircraft (the original sported the J-5C version of the
Whirlwind). The 73-year old engine's logbook, in perfect condition,
notes it has a total of 795 hours flying time. After its completion
in 1979, pilot Ray Cote flew the aircraft seven times from
Lindbergh Field to Brown Field in Otay Mesa, with a stopover at NAS
North Island. Total flying time was 2 hours and 42 minutes, at a
cruising speed of approximately 90 mph.
The Ryan NYP replica was dismantled the first week of
July (right) and transported to the Museum's hangar complex at
Gillespie Field in El Cajon (CA). There, the 2,100-pound
aircraft will undergo a rigorous inspection process. Museum Board
member Capt. Gordon Witter and designated pilot Capt. Roger Baker,
both retired airline captains, will supervise the inspection of the
airplane's fabric covering, airframe and engine.
"Given [the Museum's] commitment to
youth and adult education, we are keeping the Spirit alive
in a couple of ways," Witter said. "We are educating young
people about one of the events in aviation's short history that
literally changed the world -- and the way we look at it.
And, we are reminding older people how we got to where we are - by
bold people taking measured risks."
Given the risk of this flight, Witter said, "The emphasis here
being that most 'daring exploits' that pepper the past one hundred
years of powered flight were, in fact, the result of carefully
considering and managing the risks. All progress involves risk --
not danger, but risk, an important distinction -- and to the extent
we educate ourselves, in general and on the tasks at hand, we
minimize and manage it."
The Museum's first Spirit of St. Louis, a reproduction
lost when the museum's first home was destroyed in a 1978 arson
fire, was built in 1967 by Hollywood's veteran aviator stunt pilots
Frank Tallman and Paul Mantz to commemorate the 40th anniversary of
Lindbergh's flight. Tallman flew the aircraft at Paris' Le Bourget
airport during the celebration.
The flight of the Museum's replica has been underwritten by
Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems and by the San Diego County
Regional Airport Authority. Northrop Grumman Ryan Aeronautical,
located in Rancho Bernardo, purchased the original Teledyne Ryan
Aeronautical Company in 1999 as part of its vast holdings.
The San Diego Aerospace Museum is located in the historic Ford
Building, 2001 Pan America Plaza.