In Nineteen-Nineteen, a wealthy hotel owner in New York City offered a prize for flying across the Atlantic Ocean without stopping. The first pilot who flew non-stop from New York to Paris would get twenty-five thousand dollars.
A number of pilots tried. Several were killed. After eight years, no one had won the prize. Charles Lindbergh believed he could win the money if he could get the right airplane.
A group of businessmen in St. Louis agreed to provide most of the money he needed for the kind of plane he wanted. He designed the aircraft himself for long-distance flying. It carried a large amount of fuel. Some people described it as a "fuel tank with wings, a motor and a seat." Lindbergh named it: "The Spirit of St. Louis."
In May, Nineteen-Twenty-Seven, Lindbergh flew his plane from San Diego, California, to an airfield outside New York City. He made the flight in the record time of twenty-one hours, twenty minutes.
At the New York airfield, he spent a few days preparing for his flight across the Atlantic. He wanted to make sure his plane's engine worked perfectly. He loaded a rubber boat in case of emergency. He also loaded some food and water, but only enough for a meal or two.
"If I get to Paris," Lindbergh said, "I will not need any more food or water than that. If I do not get to Paris, I will not need any more, either."
May Twentieth started as a rainy day. But experts told Lindbergh that weather conditions over the Atlantic Ocean were improving. A mechanic started the engine of "The Spirit of St. Louis."
"It sounds good to me," the mechanic said. "Well, then," said Lindbergh, "I might as well go."
The plane carried a heavy load of fuel. It struggled to fly up and over the telephone wires at the end of the field. Then, climbing slowly, "The Spirit of St. Louis" flew out of sight. Lindbergh was on his way to Paris.