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PILOT STORIES: Charles Lindbergh

Lindbergh got his nickname, Lucky Lindy, not from his successful transatlantic flight, but from his airmail service. Before he tackled the Atlantic Ocean in 1927, Charles Lindbergh had a career as an airmail pilot. Following stints as an army pilot, test pilot and barnstormer, Lindbergh flew the mail as a contract pilot. His nickname was given to him after he was forced to parachute to safety twice as an airmail pilot.

While flying the mail on September 16, 1926, Lindbergh was forced to jump from his airplane during a blinding snow and rain storm after he had gotten lost in the darkness and his airplane ran out of fuel. As he drifted down to earth, Lindbergh heard his airplane start back up again. Apparently as it headed straight down, enough fuel was pumped back into the engine to start it up. A quickly unnerved Lindbergh watched as his airplane seemed to aim straight for him. As Lindbergh wrote up the incident in his official report:

Soon [my airplane] came into sight, about a quarter mile away and headed in the general direction of my parachute. . . . The airplane was making a left spiral of about a mile diameter, and passed approximately 300 yards away from my chute, leaving me on the outside of the circle. I was undecided as to whether the airplane or I was descending the more rapidly and glided my chute away from the spiral path of the ship as rapidly as I could. The ship passed completely out of sight, but reappeared in a few seconds, its rate of descent being about the same as that of the parachute. I counted five spirals, each one a little further away than the last, before reaching the top of the fog bank.

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