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Grandson Begins Lindbergh Flight

April 14, 2002

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SAN DIEGO (AP) _ The grandson of aviation hero Charles Lindbergh took off from San Diego under hazy skies Sunday on the first leg of an attempt to duplicate his grandfather’s historic 1927 solo crossing of the Atlantic.

Erik Lindbergh’s flight re-creation is part of the 75th anniversary celebration of Charles Lindbergh’s cross-Atlantic flight, which began in San Diego, where the original Spirit of St. Louis was built.

Wearing a blue flight suit, the young Lindbergh, 36, left San Diego’s airport, Lindbergh Field, at 9:32 a.m. without speaking to reporters.

He expected to make the trip to St. Louis in nine hours. From there, he plans to fly on April 20 to Farmingdale, N.Y., where he will begin his crossing of the Atlantic on May 1.

The cross-Atlantic trip took Charles Lindbergh 33 1/2 hours; his grandson expects to make it in less than 21 hours.

Erik Lindbergh’s New Spirit of St. Louis, made of a glass and carbon composite and outfitted with modern communications technology and safety gear, was built in Bend, Ore., for $289,000. Its average cruise speed is 184 mph, compared to the 108 mph of the original Spirit of St. Louis, which was built for $10,580.

Dozens of reporters and supporters gathered at Lindbergh Field to see off the young Lindbergh, a commercial pilot and artist who lives in the Seattle area.

Among them was Tom Young, who as a 6-year-old saw Charles Lindbergh leave the San Diego airfield then known as Dutch Flats in 1927.

``It’s quite a thrill to see the grandchild take off,″ Young said. ``I have a memory of going down to Dutch Flats with my father ... and being moved out of the way so (Lindbergh) could get in.″

``I hope that all these young children here today will remember this in 75 years,″ Young said.

The risks of crossing the Atlantic now are less than what the elder Lindbergh faced in 1927, event organizers acknowledged, but the challenge is still considerable.

``Each time one person does it, it’s a personal challenge and inherently risky,″ said Gregg Maryniak, flight director for the New Spirit of St. Louis.

The adventure also is intended to raise awareness of rheumatoid arthritis, which Erik Lindbergh has struggled with for years.

Organizers also hope the journey will promote the X Prize Foundation, a nonprofit group based in St. Louis that is offering $10 million to the first private group that can build and launch a manned spacecraft into space, then repeat the feat within two weeks.

The competition is modeled after the Orteig Prize, the $25,000 bounty won by Charles Lindbergh for making the New York-to-Paris trip.

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On the Net:

Lindbergh Foundation at http://lindberghfoundation.org

The History Channel at http://www.historychannel.com