FARMINGDALE, N.Y., May 1 (UPI) -- The grandson of aviation pioneer Charles Lindbergh departed Wednesday from New York in a re-creation of his grandfather's famous flight to Paris to promote space tourism and the Arthritis Foundation.
"Erik Lindbergh left at 12:16 p.m., on what should be a 16-hour-16-minute flight and he's expected to land at 10:30 a.m. local time at Le Bourget Airport, outside of Paris tomorrow," Peter DiAmandis, chairman of the X PRIZE, told United Press International.
"Erik's flight will take half the time and half the fuel of his grandfather but Erik will trace his grandfather's Great Circle Route flight plan and will mostly be over water," he said.
Originally scheduled to take off at 10 a.m. the flight was delayed to capture an ideal jet stream air current that is expected to shave 3 hours off the flight that was expected to take up to 21 hours.
"I am making this flight to honor my grandfather's legacy and to promote the X PRIZE competition, which I believe to be the catalyst for the future of space travel," said Lindbergh. "When I'm done with this flight I want to go into space on the X-PRIZE."
By being the first to solo cross the Atlantic Ocean in a race to win the $25,000 Orteig Prize, Charles Lindbergh opened the world of commercial aviation that today is a $250 billion industry.
Erik Lindbergh, 37, a sculptor who lives in Seattle, is making his flight to honor the anniversary of the grandfather's flight and to support of The X PRIZE Foundation.
Founded in 1996, The X PRIZE Foundation, based in St. Louis, is sponsoring an international "Race to Space," paralleling the 1927 aviation race across the Atlantic, won by Charles Lindbergh.
A grand prize of $10 million will be awarded to the first team that builds and flies a three-person vehicle to an altitude of 62 miles twice within a two-week period. Currently 21 teams from the private sector in five countries are pursuing the prize.
"Erik Lindbergh's flight will not be an actual recreation of his grandfather's flight," Ed James, a spokesman for Lindbergh told UPI. "He'll have a modern plane and a radio and other safety equipment his grandfather didn't have but it's still a small plane flying over a lot of ocean."
Erik Lindbergh's plane, The New Spirit of St. Louis, is a state-of-the-art Lancair Columbia 300 made of fiberglass and is equipped with radio, radar, satellite telephone and Internet access. The plane has a cruising speed of 180 mph.
"He will cruise at an altitude of 11,000 feet and because three weather systems are a concern he will be guided from us on the ground to avoid icing conditions," DiAmandis said.
His grandfather's plane, The Spirit of St. Louis, was a small single engine plane constructed of wood, fabric and steel that had no radio and no radar. Charles Lindbergh took 33.5 hours to fly the 3,610 miles from New York to Paris at altitudes of up to 8,000 feet and sometimes as low as 1,000 feet.
Charles Lindbergh departed from Roosevelt Field on Long Island, but because that is now a shopping mall, his grandson used the nearest Long Island airport, Republic Airport, in Farmingdale, N.Y.
The elder Lindbergh was greeted by hundreds of thousands of people in Paris when he landed his solo flight that not only launched commercial aviation but also made him a sensation attracting crowds wherever he went.
Erik Lindbergh does not get that kind of attention but he said that everywhere he goes he still meets people who tell him how his grandfather's flight grabbed their attention 75 years ago.
The 37-year-old grandson has suffered from the age of 21 with rheumatoid arthritis, a progressive autoimmune disease marked by pain, tenderness, and inflammation of the joints.
During his worst years with rheumatoid arthritis, Lindbergh was forced to use a cane due to the severe pain that made it almost impossible for him to walk.
However, with the help of a breakthrough biotech drug, Enbrel, he has been to pursue his dreams. He's currently a spokesperson for the Arthritis Foundation and serves as a trustee and vice president of the X PRIZE Foundation
"Erik is an experienced commercial pilot and flight instructor, and has spent months undergoing rigorous training and testing to prepare himself for these highly demanding solo flights," said Gregg Maryniak, director for the 2002 New Spirit of St. Louis flight, and executive director of the X PRIZE Foundation.
The History Channel will follow Lindbergh as he traces his grandfather's footsteps, in a two-hour documentary special scheduled to air May 20, the 75th Anniversary of Charles Lindbergh's takeoff from New York to Paris.
The program, "Lindbergh Flies Again," will include historic footage of Charles Lindbergh and the present day mission of his grandson.
(Reported by Alex Cukan)