The twentieth century opened with the courageous exploits of the visionary Wright brothers. This marked the beginning of aviation history, which is dotted with a vast number of aviators and explorers. Granted, explorers come in many forms. Along with Shackleton, Byrd, Hillary and the Apollo astronauts, Charles Lindbergh is one of the great explorers of the twentieth century.
What was once considered a daring feat – sailing across the Atlantic Ocean – something that Columbus achieved on four occasions, was thought a suicidal mission flying in an airplane during the early age of aviation. Like Columbus, Magellan and Cook, Lindbergh was not intimidated by the unthinkable.
Charles Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic in 1927 is the story of late Western civilization in a nutshell. What is particularly fascinating about Lindbergh’s brush with history – and immortality- is that his story is a classic example of faith and reason.
Lindbergh’s vision as an aviator, explorer and thinker cannot be conceived aside from his well-documented books, which put on display the dreams and aspirations of a young boy with stars in his eyes, and an adult who wanted to capture the essence of the possible vis-à-vis spiritual transcendence. This will not come as a surprise to people who have studied his writing, works like We, Of Flight and Life, The Spirit of Saint Louis, his prescient Wartime Journals and Autobiography of Values. The best way to honor the noble legacy of such a historical visionary is to keep his story alive for posterity.
In The Flight: Charles Lindbergh’s Daring and Immortal 1927 Transatlantic Crossing by Dan Hampton, a decorated F-16 pilot, the author attempts to describe Lindbergh’s journey across the Atlantic from a pilot’s viewpoint.
As psychologically grueling as Lindbergh’s flight was, and he surely planned for this, nothing compared to the reality of fatigue and exhaustion that he would eventually experience. Hampton stays clear of the fatal flaw that so many biographies and biographical sketches fall prey to – armchair psychological overanalyzing of the book’s subject. Because he is a pilot, the author of The Flightconcentrates on Lindbergh’s personal account of being confined to the small cockpit of the Spirit of Saint Louis for 33 and a half hours.
For instance, Lindbergh’s description of trying to stay awake while realizing that he has only flown 1,500 miles in sixteen hours and still has 300 miles until he reaches the midway point, and another 2,100 miles to reach Paris, is hair-raising. Lindbergh fights off sleep and tells himself “I’ve never understood the meaning of temptation or how powerful one’s desires can become.”
While Hampton’s book is a retelling of Lindbergh’s legendary flight, and the accounts that he describes in his book are readily available in Lindbergh’s books, The Flight remains a valuable tool, especially as the book can serve as an entry point for readers that are not familiar with Lindbergh’s historical flight across the Atlantic Ocean. Hampton’s book also serves as a testament to Lindbergh’s accomplishment, as this is backed by a fighter pilot who knows about flying across the Atlantic. The book can be read as exploration literature or aviation history, much like Admiral Richard Byrd’s 1928 Skyward: Man’s Mastery of the Air.