As the attached histories tell in tremendous detail, Lindbergh was the INS system for the Spirit of St. Louis.
The experimental, single engine Ryan NYP aircraft had as its primary navigation tool an Earth Inductor Compass. To add fuel capacity and to improve the plane’s center of gravity, Lindbergh eschewed having a windshield and used that space for another fuel tank. He could not see the terrain before him unless he stuck his head out the side window or use the plane’s periscope.
The only onboard computer was the native of Little Falls, MN. He was a graduate of a Lincoln, NE fight school, and then of the US Army in San Antonio, TX. He refined his incredible “seat of the pants” skills during his time working for the US Air Mail Service. His book, We, mentions that part of his dead reckoning was reading the winds on the sea below his aircraft to calculate his deviation from his intended flight.
The design of the Ryan aircraft included intended negative stability compelled him to make frequent corrections. Lindbergh commented that those adjustments helped keep him awake during his 33 ½ hour flight.
Today’s cockpit is a display panel of instruments and is backed by a variety of on board computers. As noted by Flight Safety Foundation’s Bill Voss (Pilots’ Heads Used to be Outside the Cockpit; Voss Says that Their Heads Now Also Need to be Behind the Computer), the pilot’s head should not become disengaged. Lindbergh’s flying was a demonstration of how he functioned as a pilot then.
The lesson from this reflection on Lindbergh’s history è Today’s flight crew has to fight the temptation to have those dials and systems supplant, rather than supplement, the integration of the pilot’s mind in the flight controls.Share this article: