This piece on Charles Lindbergh’s New York-to-Paris flight in 1927 is one of my favorite projects. I researched and wrote this, collected most of the artwork, and designed both the print page and the online presentation.
In history-related articles like these, I start with a clear narration and include background that gives readers a good idea of what was happening around the event. Lindbergh was competing for the Orteig Prize, a $25,000 cash award (equal to about $350,000 today) designed to spur advancements in aviation.
After establishing a point-to-point description, I add the details. With Lindbergh, they were richly fascinating:
- Lindbergh was an underdog with less financial backing than his competitors, so he had some difficulty finding an aircraft manufacturer to build the plane he wanted;
- he helped design the plane himself;
- he made the controls finicky to prevent him from relaxing and dozing off in mid-air;
- he insisted on a wicker chair to save weight;
- he saw ghosts in his plane during the flight.
Lindbergh waited until 1954, when he wrote his second book about the flight, before revealing that ghosts, spirits of some sort, appeared in the Spirit of St. Louis during the 22nd hour.
That led me to research “The Third Man Factor,” in which people in extreme physical circumstances sometimes hallucinate guardian angels, or other spirits who comfort and guide them. The phenomenon is named after a poem by T. S. Eliot, who based his piece on the Antarctic survival story of Sir Ernest Shackleton.
Colleagues Janet Loehrke did the map and Frank Pompa did the Spirit of St. Louis illustration. Both print and online versions received high praise. A link to the online piece is here.