An Oklahoma group has flown an almost precise duplicate of the Ryan NYP that carried Charles Lindbergh on his historic 1927 trans-Atlantic flight from New York to Paris and is setting its sights on a reenactment. The Spirit 2 has been under construction for 18 years in Bethany, Oklahoma, with almost every piece and component a handmade replica of the original equipment on the purpose-built aircraft. The aircraft is faithful in every detail but the FAA has mandated some modern additions. The aircraft took a 15-minute hop from Wiley Post Field on Jan. 12 with project spearhead Robert Ragozzino in the wicker seat of the replica. The original hangs from the main hall of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

The first flight was uneventful with the plane performing as expected. “It’s going to take some practice,” Ragozzino said. “It handles like a Mack truck with the power steering pump disconnected.” The group has not set a date for the reenactment flight. The route covers 3,600 miles, mostly over the Atlantic, with the last landfall over Newfoundland and first sight of Europe over Ireland. It took 33 hours. Ragozzino will be at the controls for the big flight and he has some experience at those kinds of endurance tests. In 2000 he flew a modified Stearman around the world in the only solo circumnavigation of an open-cockpit aircraft.

12 COMMENTS

  1. “In 2000 he flew a modified Stearman around the world in the only circumnavigation of an open cockpit aircraft.”
    This probably would have been a surprise to the crews of the Douglas World Cruisers in ninety-seven years ago, who flew *two* open cockpit airplanes around the world.

    Mr. Ragozzino did fly the only *solo* circumnavigation….and did beat the Army pilots by five days.

  2. Don’t know if one could count the Spirit as “open cockpit” (can’t tell if the openings in the cockpit have windows in them) but you definitely can’t count Lindbergh’s flight as a circumnavigation of the world.

  3. It is an astonishing achievement to have built the replica, but I completely fail to see the point of reenacting the flight. Surely it would be a better use of the aircraft to tour around the country to show it to young people, to bring history alive and inspire them?

  4. Wow! What an achievement! I’m a little conflicted about the re-enactment, does not seem there is a lot to gain for the risk posed for such an amazing replica. Re-enacting Lindy’s original flight from San Diego, making that flight part of the “around the country tour” suggested by Bob G. If we ever have live air shows and Oshkosh again, the Spirit 2 will certainly need to be there as a star attraction. Way to go Robert!

  5. Congratulations on their building accomplishment. However, I remember there were one or maybe two Spirit of St. Louis replicas flying around some years back. They (or it) were close to the real thing also. The last time I saw one was at a Tullahoma, TN airshow about 20 years ago. What happened to them?

  6. It’s his airplane, correct? He can do with as he pleases, correct? If he wants to fly it around the world, then it isn’t up to us, correct? Our opinions of what he does with his own aircraft count for nothing except exhaled gases. I would not do it, but then again (and whenever possible), I skirt the shoreline of the large lake rather than fly over the middle.

    Nothing but good thoughts from me should he make the attempt…

  7. In 2010 I had the opportunity to fly the Spirit replica once around the patch with Sean Elliott as PIC. It absolutely responds like a Mack truck without power steering. How Lindbergh wrestled in to Paris is incredible.
    This aircraft is one of two at Oshkosh. It’s not a true replica in that the fuel tanks have been reduced in size to convert it to a tandem configuration with the command pilot forward and secondary aft. The second example hangs in the museum and is a much more accurate replica. Mrs Lindbergh autographed the fabric inside the cockpit.

  8. I was able to fly EAA’s replica. As explained by EAA’s pilot–it isn’t the same airplane–the fuel system is obviously different, and the engine is different–HOWVER, the handling is the same. It is the worst-handling airplane of the 342 unique types I’ve flown.

    Some have said “Lindbergh made it difficult to fly on purpose to stay awake.” The reality is that Lindbergh laid out the specs for it, and because of the short time he had to beat the competitors, they settled on a rework of an existing mailplane design.

    Prior to the flight, we discussed the handling–and the pilot asked “Which seat would you like–the front seat, or the “Lindbergh seat”? Obviously, I chose the rear seat–though the front seat does offer better visibility. Takeoff and climb were not an issue, but we took the aircraft to altitude to do some airwork before landings–and I’m glad the instructor insisted on it! Because the rear seat is blind, we did a series of alternating 90 degree turns in the climb. I initially had problems with coordination for adverse yaw–the pilot explained “Ryan extended the wings to carry the load–moving the ailerons out and giving them a longer arm. They didn’t do anything with the tail, however, and Lindbergh mentioned it after his first test flight. Ryan offered to rework the vertical and horizontal controls–Lindbergh asked “How Long”? They replied “3 days”–and Lindbergh said I don’t HAVE 3 days.” To compensate, they extended the control stick to give more leverage. To start a turn, lead with the rudder, and LOTS OF IT–the long control stick is moved to the side (far farther than any other aircraft I’ve ever flown–perhaps 12″ measured at the top of the stick–and the stick then is moved back smartly. The aircraft bleeds speed in a steep turn–“keep them shallow.” All of this has to undone in the rollout–resulting in large movements of the controls–not “a gentle pressure” as we have come to expect. There is a large slip-skid indicator in the cabin–I could almost HEAR the balll hitting the end of the race! After a few minutes, I got the hang of it. (It should be noted that at the time the Spirit was manufactured, there were no standards as to how an aircraft should fly–that work was done by Bob Gilruth for NACA (and later head of NASA)–setting the standards for aircraft certification that allowed the US to set the standards for the world.
    We did a couple of approaches to stalls (the pilot didn’t want to do full stalls) before heading back for landings. “Full stall or wheel landings?” I asked. He said “You know, I have more time and landings in Spirit-type aircraft than anyone in the world, and I never know!” When flying from the rear seat, I try for a wheel landing, and if it doesn’t work out, I do a full stall.” Following his advice, I did a continuous turn from the downwind, so I could see the runway out the left window–base to final at about 250′. From the rear seat, I was able to see the left main wheel, and simply “flew it on” to the runway–a good landing. Next time, I tried a full stall–the airplane quickly “unhooked” on me, and dropped it in. The third landing was back to a wheel landing.

    The takeaway–EVERYTHING ABOUT THE AIRPLANE WAS A COMPROMISE–IT WAS BUILT SPECIFICALLY FOR THE NY-PARIS FLIGHT. Every effort was made to save weight–right down to “no starter, battery, or even a carburetor heat box (which nearly got Lindbergh during the ferry flight to New York–he had one installed). The fuel system was a nightmare–the controls were poorly done (as discussed above). Lindbergh had a specific request–keep the fuel in front of me–too many long-distance pilots were killed when they crashed and the fuel tanks crushed them. I’m SO GLAD to have had the opportunity to fly it–and SO GLAD THAT AIRPLANES TODAY DON’T FLY LIKE THAT!