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Mon, Aug 18, 2003

Spirit Of St. Louis Replica Flys In To San Diego

Marks Lindbergh Field's 75th Anniversary

It was an anomaly in a sky normally filled with commercial-type heavy iron. Suddenly, through the haze that surrounded downtown San Diego (CA), a sparkling, high-wing monoplane descends toward the runway. An apparition from the past, it turns heads, as witnesses strain to see the words "Spirit of St. Louis" written in black letters on the fuselage.

"You don't see that every day," said Gordon Witter, in an interview with the San Diego Times-Union.  Witter was flying a plane that accompanied the replica of Charles Lindbergh's historic 1927 aircraft. The aircraft landed without incident (albeit with a lot of turned heads) at Lindbergh's namesake airport, to help celebrate its 75th anniversary.

Some 300 people were on hand to cheer the arrival of the "Spirit" replica. "Boy, are we thrilled," said Witter, chairman emeritus of the San Diego Aerospace Museum in Balboa Park, which owns and displays the plane in its rotunda.

While the original Spirit of St. Louis resides at the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum in Washington (DC), this 1979 replica was overhauled recently. The short hop from the museum to Lindbergh Field was one of the first attempts to fly it in 23 years.

The Times-Union reports replica pilot Roger Baker had a bit of trouble seeing out of the cockpit. Like the original, of course, it had no forward-looking windows. All Baker had to look through were two two-foot square windows on either side of the instrument panel. He had to navigate by watching the landmarks go by. That's why a chase-plane through San Diego's crowded airspace probably wasn't such a bad idea.

Later, Baker admitted the replica of the first airplane to fly nonstop across the Atlantic was indeed a little difficult to fly. Then again, he said, "I think I had by far the most elegant transportation to this celebration of anyone today."

Good point.

FMI: www.aerospacemuseum.org

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