The Liberty Gazette
September 11, 2012Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Mike: “Well, when I was a kid I made up my mind that I was going to be six feet tall and I made it, plus one inch.” Jimmy Stewart, portraying the Lone Eagle Charles Lindbergh in the movie The Spirit of St. Louis spoke that line. I wonder if it was a Hollywood writer’s imagination, or did Lucky Lindy actually say it? I may never know, but I do know that Lindbergh’s non-stop solo flight across the North Atlantic in 1927 changed a lot of lives. It was the flight that opened up a whole new world of adventure for many young boys and girls, and ignited fascination and a love affair with a fledgling industry that soon grew by leaps and bounds. The world got smaller; far off lands came closer…and aviation is now a 250 billion-dollar-a-year industry.
Seventy-five years later Erik Lindbergh retraced his grandfather’s prop-wash across the North Atlantic in a modern piston-powered single engine airplane: Long Island, New York to Paris’ Le Bourget Airport in 17 hours and 7 minutes. Although that’s considerably faster than Lucky Lindy’s historic flight of 33 hours and 30 minutes, there can only be one first time and that will always be the elder Lindbergh’s legacy.
In the ten years since his transatlantic flight, Erik has not sat still. Taking the opportunity to benefit three different charities, Erik has raised more than one million dollars. One recipient of his generosity is the Arthritis Foundation; he suffers with the disease and it presents a challenge on long flights. Now in his mid-forties, he has already had both of his knees replaced, yet he maintains a very active lifestyle which includes snow skiing and other pursuits.
Another organization special to Erik is the X-Prize Foundation, which administers the Ansari X-Prize, one that seeks to promote private reusable spacecraft and space tourism. The first winner of the $10,000,000 X-Prize was an obscure (unless you are active in the aviation industry) company called Scaled Composites. In 2004 they launched the same privately built spacecraft into space twice in a two week period, returning its test pilots safely back to terra firma after each launch. Erik, having served as a Vice President and Board member of the foundation was on hand at the Mojave Spaceport to witness the first flight. It was a similar award which Charles Lindbergh won for his solo transatlantic flight, the Orteig Prize of $25,000.
In 1977 as part of the fiftieth anniversary of Lindbergh’s transatlantic crossing, the Lindbergh Foundation was formed to work toward finding a balance between the furthering of technology and environmental conservation through education and scholarships. The foundation, of which Erik is a Director, also oversees the Lindbergh award, honoring individuals whose work has made significant contributions toward concepts Charles Lindbergh believed in. The list of past notable recipients includes General James Doolittle, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, Sir Edmund Hillary, and Neil Armstrong.
Last week we wrote about the young Amelia Rose Earhart living a life that would make her famous ancestor proud. Here, too, is Erik Lindbergh, whose work honors the pioneering spirit of people just like his grandfather. Amelia and Erik could have rested on their family’s laurels, their famous names – they could have milked it, but they haven’t. Instead, they’re making a difference.