The Spirit of St. Louis is a custom-built airplane which was flown by Charles Lindbergh.
The Spirit of St. Louis is officially known as the Ryan NYP, designed by Donald A. Hall of Ryan Airlines in San Diego, California. Lindbergh wanted to increase fuel efficiency and he has the opinion that single-engine planes could travel farther and it led to the design of the Spirit of St. Louis, which was one of the most streamlined aircraft at that time. Donald A. Hall decided that the tail and control surfaces would not be altered from his original Ryan M2 design. It resulted to a less stable aircraft, by which the experienced Lindbergh nevertheless approved. There was a dispute about the preference of design since the estimated 40-hour flight would be very challenging in terms of pilot fatigue. Hall and Lindbergh weighed the advantages and disadvantages of the setup, determining that an unstable aircraft would help keep Lindbergh awake and this resulted in a plane with unstable flight characteristics, with a tendency to curve, dip and bank at random times and the cockpit was also purposely uncomfortable, but it was custom-fitted to Lindberghs tall and lanky frame. Lindbergh also insisted the elimination of unnecessary weight such as radio since it was unreliable at that time.
On May 20 and 21, 1927, Spirit of St. Louis, piloted by Lindbergh, made the first non-stop solo transatlantic flight, making him an instant celebrity and media star. He won the $25,000 Orteig prize. Lindbergh subsequently flew the Spirit of St. Louis to Belgium and England before going back to the United States upon order by President Calvin Coolidge. Lindbergh flew the Spirit of St. Louis on promotional and goodwill tours across the United States and Latin America. Spirit of St. Louis final flight was on April 30, 1928, having flown from St. Louis to Bolling Field, Washington, D.C., wherein Lindbergh presented the historic aircraft to the Smithsonian Institution.
The Original Spirit of St. Louis is currently displayed at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, in the main atrium on the same side as the Bell X-1 and SpaceShipOne. Many static and flying replicas have been made. There were three replicas of the Spirit of St. Louis converted from Ryan B-1s for the 1957 film The Spirit of St. Louis starring James Stewart
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