spirit of st louisspirit pilot


RHINEBECK, NY – June 1, 2016: The Rhinebeck Aerodrome Museum’s “Spirit of the Aerodrome Gala” celebrated the 89th anniversary of Charles Lindbergh’s transatlantic crossing and the public debut flight of the Aerodrome’s brand-new reproduction Spirit of St. Louis aircraft. The Aerodrome’s Spirit is an exact copy of the aircraft Lindbergh used to make the historic New York to Paris, non-stop solo flight in 1927, and is considered by many to be the most historically significant aircraft ever built. On May 21, 2016, the Aerodrome’s Spirit successfully flew to the delight of a crowd of 600 spectators at the Rhinebeck Aerodrome on the anniversary date of Lindbergh’s landing in Paris. Later that evening, a 1920’s themed gala/fundraiser was attended by just under 150 participants, many donning period attire. The event took place in one of the Aerodrome’s hangars, which was prepared for the evening with special lighting, using the Spirit aircraft as the centerpiece. Two of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s grandchildren, (Kristina and Lars Lindbergh) were on hand to celebrate and accept an award for their aunt, Reeve Lindbergh, who was unable to attend.

The flight was preceded by a day of open demonstration flying of museum aircraft, museum tours, and special guest speakers, including Dr. Peter Jakab, chief curator of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. Dr. Jakab gave two talks during the daytime activities focusing on the importance of the Spirit of St. Louis and Charles Lindbergh’s contribution to the advancement of aviation. The original aircraft is on exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Ken Cassens, builder of the Aerodrome’s Spirit, visited Washington several times over the past twenty years to research the original with the helpful cooperation of Dr. Jakab and Smithsonian staff members to make the Aerodrome’s copy as authentic as possible.

At 5:00pm a 1927 procession of antique vehicles and people dressed in period attire escorted the Spirit down the runway to transport spectators back in time. The 220 horse-power Wright J-5 engine was started using the original hand-propping method, and the Spirit taxied to the North end of the runway with Cassens as the pilot. The aircraft leapt into the air to the sound of cheers from the audience and flew for approximately 20 minutes. During the flight air show announcer, Jim Hare discussed Charles Lindbergh’s good will tour, which followed the transatlantic flight. Lindbergh stopped in all 48 contiguous states, Canada and South America to promote aviation to state leaders and to encourage them to include airports in the planning of their cities to insure successful commerce via air transportation into the future.

The Spirit has no forward visibility due to the large fuel tanks in the forward section of the fuselage which were required to make the 3,600-mile trip, so Cassens brought the Spirit in for a perfect landing using a maneuver known as a “side-slip.” This was accomplished by crabbing the aircraft to one side to provide forward visibility through a window located on the side of the aircraft. The touchdown was greeted with another round of cheers and applause from the crowd.

After landing, NYC radio personality Dan Taylor interviewed Ken about the project, and Kristina Lindbergh about her feelings toward witnessing the flight as the Spirit was rolled into the gala hangar. The Gala started with a performance by the Georgie Wonders orchestra and ended with an exciting live auction. The event brought in much needed funding to help keep the Aerodrome’s main assets (the aircraft and vehicles) in good working order.

Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro was honored at the gala for his role in securing some funding for the Spirit project and for raising public awareness of the important role that the Aerodrome plays in tourism for Dutchess County. Reeve Lindbergh and Dr. Peter Jakab were also honored at the gala for their support with the Aerodrome’s Spirit project.

In addition to the debut of the Spirit, the Aerodrome also opened its brand new gift shop on the airfield. This new structure replaces the previous gift shop, which tragically burned to the ground last August due to an electrical fire. The new gift shop/visitor center incorporates modern restroom facilities, which have been requested by visitors for years, and will make the Aerodrome a more comfortable place for families to visit. The gift shop was miraculously completed and received its certificate of occupancy the day before the event thanks to the dedicated efforts of local contractors including Mike Hericourt of Ed Hericourt Construction. He and his team put the finishing touches on the building the night before the official opening. The new structure was very well received by visitors, and the combination of the successful gala, newly completed Spirit of St. Louis reproduction and new gift shop have paved the way toward a successful 2017 air show season for the Aerodrome.

Vintage air shows will commence on June 11 and will take place every Saturday and Sunday through October 9. Saturday Shows feature the History of Flight. Sunday shows focus on WWI aircraft.
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