Lindbergh’s Texas Visits

Charles Lindbergh

Charles Lindbergh

In 1923, before Charles Lindbergh became famous, like all barnstormers of his day, he wanted to boast that he had flown in Texas.  When he bought his first World War I surplus Jenny in Georgia, he flew it to Texarkana.  The following year, on a trip to California, Lindbergh mistook the Nueces River for the Rio Grande and by the time he discovered his error he had to land in a sheep pasture outside Camp Wood, Texas, about ninety-miles west of San Antonio.  The pasture proved too small for a takeoff with both Lindbergh and his partner Leon Klink in the cockpit.  “Slim,” as Camp Wood residents called Lindbergh, flew the plane into town and landed on the town square.  The takeoff required fitting the forty-four-foot wingspan of the Canuck (Canadian version of the Jenny) between telephone poles spread only forty-eight feet apart.  All went well until one wheel dropped into a rut in the street causing the plane to swing around, strike a pole, and crash into a hardware store.  No one was injured and the storekeeper refused payment for damages.  After a week of hosting the young aviators while they repaired their plane, the town took a real liking to the pair, especially the quiet and courteous Lindbergh.

Two weeks after his Camp Wood experience, Lindbergh became a U.S. Air Service Cadet at Brooks Field in San Antonio, completing his advanced flight training at nearby Kelly Field in 1925.  Lindbergh became a world-famous aviation hero by making the first solo flight, May 20-21, 1927, aboard his Spirit of St. Louis from Roosevelt Field in Garden City, New York, to Le Bourget Field in Paris.

Spirit of St. LouisNational Air & Space Museum, Wash. D.C.

Spirit of St. Louis
National Air & Space Museum, Wash. D.C.

The “Lindbergh Boom” in aviation began as aircraft industry stocks rose and interest in flying skyrocketed.  Lindbergh’s fame helped him promote commercial aviation.  When Transcontinental Air Transport hired him to select its aircraft, routes and equipment, he returned to Texas to survey the first commercial transcontinental air route through Amarillo.  On March 10, 1929, he came to Texas again when he flew the inaugural flight for the U.S.-Mexican airmail from Brownsville to Mexico City via Tampico.  Somewhere along the route several bags of mail went missing for a month causing the philatelic world of stamp collectors to refer to the adventure as the “Lost Mail Flight.”

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