When Charles Lindbergh Came to Town

On October 21st, 1927, five months after becoming the first person to make a nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean, Charles Lindbergh, visited northern Delaware as part of celebratory tour of the United States. The event is highlighted in the October ‘This Month In Delaware History’ on the front page of the Delaware Historical Society’s website. Posted here are two articles from the October 23rd, 1927 Sunday Star newspaper concerning Lindbergh’s visit to Wilmington, Delaware. Lindbergh flew the same single engine, single seat monoplane he made his trans-atlantic flight in, the “Spirit of St. Louis”, to DuPont Airfield near present day Westover Hills along the Brandywine River.

What most do not know is Lindbergh’s first choice of airplane to fly over the Atlantic was not the “Spirit of St. Louis”. It was the monoplane “Columbia”, designed and built by the founder of Bellanca Airfield in New Castle, Delaware, Italian immigrant Guiseppe Bellanca.  In April of ’27 the “Columbia” set a non-refueled endurance world record of 51 hours & 12 minutes.  Lindbergh wanted to buy it, but part owner of the “Columbia” at the time, Bellanca’s business partner Charles Levine, blocked the sale. Levine wanted to use the plane to cash in on the $25,000 prize connected to the first trans-atlantic flight. His asking price was exceptionally high and Lindbergh could not gather the funds. Lindbergh was forced to take his second choice, the “Spirit of St. Louis” for his flight which took place successfully on May 10th, 1927.  Three weeks later, the “Columbia” was flown nonstop from New York to Berlin, eclipsing Lindbergh’s distance. Levine, although missing the prize money and the fame of being part of the first trans-atlantic flight, technically became the first passenger to fly over the Atlantic nonstop, with pilot Clarence Chamberlain flying the plane. Bellanca soon severed all ties with Levine at having cost him the honor of designing the first plane to cross the Atlantic and went into business for himself. Henry Belin du Pont convinced Bellanca to build his company in New Castle, Delaware and it was there that a world class airfield, aircraft factory, and service hangar were built: The Bellanca Aircraft Corporation.

For more information on Delaware’s Aviation history and the story of Bellanca Airfield see:

http://www.friendsofbellanca.org/


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