K E Y N O T E S P E A K E R | Column
CAMPFIRE FLYING BY ERIK LINDBERGH
Chewing over a can of campfire philosophy with some new friends, I was asked what it was like to grow up as a Lindbergh. I mentioned that my childhood felt no different from that of my friends, and that I thought I had a pretty regular upbringing.
hewing over a can of campfire philosophy with some new friends, I was asked what it was like to grow up as a Lindbergh. I mentioned that my childhood felt no different from that of my friends, and that I thought I had a pretty regular upbringing. Growing up on an island in Puget Sound, I was relatively sheltered from most Lindbergh mania. I knew about my grandfather’s solo transatlantic flight in 1927 that made him so famous, but in those days it didn’t go much beyond an elementary school friend’s excitement while doing a book report about my grandfather.
On the other hand, “Lindbergh mania” opened up doors through which I’ve met some of the most brilliant and amazing people. One of those people, Peter Diamandis, was inspired by the $25,000 Orteig Prize which Grandfather won. Peter went on to create the ten million dollar XPRIZE which jump-started the personal spaceflight industry. My desire to promote the XPRIZE culminated in an exhilarating and challenging personal experience - a 17 hour solo transatlantic flight in my Lancair Columbia 300. That trip pretty much exorcised my Lindberghophobia.
The older I got, the more interesting this legacy became. On one hand, a certain lack of ease around this legacy built up into what I call “Lindberghophobia.” This self-diagnosed condition lurked in the background as strangers discussed my family of origin too loudly at a party or the grocery store. It also manifested itself at public events where people would gush about Charles or Anne while shaking my hand too vigorously or too long and leaning in too close. This stuff had a tendency to make my skin crawl when I was younger.
Being in the company of pilots, I knew this fireside conversation was headed in an aviation direction, and sure enough my fireside companions asked about my solo flight from New York to Paris in the Lancair in 2002. The standard responses to these questions started to bubble to the surface as if on autopilot, but the spell had been cast. This was no hangar flying session, or press conference; it was a campfire in the woods fueled by roasted sausages on a sharpened stick and cold beer with the hissing and popping of Douglas Fir flaring up in the fire.
M AY / J U N E 2 0 1 0
So, my story began. For several hours I was flying through heavy precipitation in a storm system out over the middle of the Atlantic. I had descended to 7,000 feet to find warm enough temperatures to ensure negative icing. Because I’ve learned to not always trust the temperature I kept shining my flashlight at the black stripes on the white wing for contrast so I could measure the insidious stuff if it did start forming. I knew that in a pinch, I could fly to a lower, warmer altitude if I needed to melt off any ice, even though ATC had given me a block clearance between seven and seventeen thousand feet. There wouldn’t be any traffic out in