Front Page Title
Pilot Shop and More
Flight Shop

-additional 10% off everything!

Aviation Books

Water Flying Books

Flying Boats... Feature Series!

Nose Art Mugs

Unique Aviation Videos

Aviation T-Shirts

About Us


StrangeBirds Forum




Air Shows & Events

75th of China Clipper TransPac Flight

Air Show Schedules 2010

Clear Lake Splash In

Golden West EAA Fly-In

Greenville Seaplane Fly-In

Reno Air Races

RV-8 Building

Adventurous Aviators 
Bush Pilots of Alaska

Steve Fossett

The Lindberghs

Clint McHenry

Samuel Johnson

Sean O'Keefe and Victor Lebacqz

Patrick Dullanty

Strange Birds Wedding

Anniversary Adventure

Seaplane Pilots Association



The Lindberghs

Charles Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh

The New York Times (Wide World Photos)

Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh leaving Roosevelt Field on Long Island in 1929.

On July 27, 1931, Charles A. Lindbergh and his young wife picked up an airplane at College Point, Queens, after it had been equipped with pontoons from the Edo factory. Contemporary news media were there in force. Mrs. Lindbergh overheard a radio reporter tell his microphone she was wearing “a leather flying helmet and leather coat, and high leather flying boots.” Mrs. Lindbergh examined herself: she was wearing a cotton blouse, lightweight riding breeches and rubber sneakers. With this and a thousand similar anecdotes, Kathleen C. Winters, in “Anne Morrow Lindbergh: First Lady of the Air,” shows why the Lindberghs all their lives held the pestiferous press in loathing; it did not all start with the kidnapping in 1932.

Winters’s short book, both pointed and modest, is concerned almost entirely with Anne as a figure in aviation history. In May 1927 she had had to ask chattery classmates at Smith College, “Who is this Lindy?” In December she met Lindbergh in Mexico City, where her very rich father, Dwight Morrow, was the United States ambassador. She went all googly in a week. “My little embroidery beribboned world is smashed,” she told her diary. The next year she was engaged to this Lindy, and in 1929 she was the wife of a leading candidate for most famous man in the world.

Anne’s education as a pilot proceeded in the intervals of flying with Charles on route surveys for budding American airline companies and attending exhibitions in which he often starred. In 1931 Charles designated her as radio operator, part-time navigator and relief pilot on an ambitious route survey for Pan Am: New York to Japan and China, thence westward around the world.

Aircraft radio in 1931 was still primitive. Few ground stations, and few aircraft, had radiotelephony. A flying operator had to send and receive in Morse code and transcribe the results while changing tuning coils in the set and adjusting a long trailing antenna to suit the frequency in use; altogether a four-handed job, and one a pilot alone would have found overwhelming.

The Lindberghs’ Lockheed Sirius was a low-wing monoplane of special elegance even for the streamlined 1930s, with tandem cockpits aft of the wing and fuel tanks for 2,000 miles at a pop. Then as now, the shortest route to Tokyo lay through Alaska. The Lindberghs took 10 days from Ottawa to Nome, much of it over the population vacuum of northern Canada, mile after mile of flat, wet nothing. At Baker Lake, trappers told Anne she was the first white woman ever seen there. At Point Barrow, a Scottish whaler told the Lindberghs he had not been “outside” for 40 years; he had never seen a telephone or an automobile.

The plane reached Tokyo after four weeks, much of it absorbed in landings forced by impenetrable weather, usually followed by Charles’s comforting (and often implausible) assertions that they had never been in serious danger while descending through cloud and fog. In China the plane was damaged in a turnover, and a cable informed them that Anne’s father was dead; the Lindberghs returned to North America by ship. Charles’s report to Pan Am made it clear that the technology for a polar route was far from ready. In 1933 they undertook another survey, exploring the Arctic route from New York to Europe. The ensuing report was encouraging, but airline service over the Atlantic did not arrive till 1939, just in time to be suspended by the war.

Anne had always aspired to be a writer, and in her 1935 best seller, “North to the Orient,” produced a sparkling narrative that delighted both Sinclair Lewis and Alexander Woollcott, and is deservedly still in print. As a writer she would prosper, but as a crew for Charles she seems to have tired of being always and everywhere “good for a woman.” Winters, an aviation historian and a licensed pilot, reports that Charles whistled when he wanted her attention, began to disappear and return without prior announcement, and lectured his family on such evils as white bread and television. It must have been trying, and she never renewed her pilot’s license after letting it lapse in 1937.

Many guys like me, who instinctively moon over airplanes but had to learn to moon over gender equity, are ready to admire Anne as an aviator. For a woman, how good was she? She was never a self-starter like Amelia Earhart, but neither did she disappear at sea. In a pursuit that offers endless opportunities for fatal mistakes, she made no fatal mistakes. Charles could have had almost any pilot in the world for his second seat, so his choice is a ringing endorsement, good enough for me.

Tom Ferrell is a former staff editor at The Times.

Published: February 4, 2007

Every day, we are reminded of the importance of preserving the freedom of flight. Not only as a tool of transportation and the ultimate means of higher education, but  just as much for fun. Flying brings joy and a full life for those who share this passion for all things that strange-ly enough, fly like birds! All rights reserved copyrighted 1998-2010