WASHINGTON, May 21 (UPI) -- Reeve Lindbergh, the daughter of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, said Tuesday although the events of the past year have rocked the U.S. commercial airline industry, there might also be an opportunity to usher in a new and better era of civilian aviation.
In an interview with United Press International, Lindbergh said she was concerned the new security restrictions on commercial passengers also threatened the existence of civil aviation, especially at the nation's smallest airports.
"We've taken some hits in aviation in the last year," she said. "It's been a hard time. But my father had great, great faith in the business of flight. It meant freedom to him, it meant business, and it meant appreciation for the planet, and it gave his life tremendous meaning and tremendous perspective."
Commercial aviation could learn the same lesson, Lindbergh told UPI, "(The airlines have) got to accommodate safety so you've got to get there two hours early and they've got to accommodate convenience," she said. "But things have to change. I think even they could get into smaller aircraft," which could invigorate aviation by decentralizing air travel. "If we started working with (advanced) smaller aircraft, we could help the smaller airports. Some of them are going out of business, which is crazy because I think we're going to need the little airports."
Lindbergh spoke earlier at a news conference at the National Air and Space Museum, which is commemorating the 75th anniversary of her father's successful non-stop flight from New York to Paris. Charles Lindbergh took off from Curtiss Field, on Long Island, N.Y., on the morning of May 20, 1927 and landed at Le Bourget Field, near Paris, the evening of May 21, some 33-and-a-half hours later. The flight is still regarded as perhaps the greatest feat of aviation in history.
Flanked by the Spirit of St. Louis, the famed plane piloted by her father on the historic flight, and Tingmissartoq, a low-wing pontooned seaplane that carried her father and mother on two long exploratory flights to Asia and South America in the 1930s, Lindbergh spoke about a previous era that also confronted the aviation industry and threatened its existence.
When Charles Lindbergh decided to fly across the Atlantic Ocean nonstop, she said, aviation was something that "other people thought was just an absolutely insane sport for young daredevils." In attempting the flight, however, "he said, 'no.' he said 'this is a business, it is a means of transportation, it can join continents,' and he was so proud and happy to be a part of it, no matter what the risks."
The real significance of the flight, Lindbergh said, "is that it started so much that now people just take for granted, that's not news anymore." Her father "was concerned about the degree to which aviation the business had to move away from aviation the adventure and he knew that it had to."
Another part of her father's legacy, Lindbergh explained, emerged from his meticulous nature. "He was ... you might say, obsessively meticulous," she said. "My husband, who is very interested in aviation has said the most important thing my father gave to aviation might not be the flight to Paris, the most important thing might be the safety checklist."
Lindbergh said every time her father even stepped into an automobile "he had to kick the tires and check the oil and make sure everything was working in the vehicle before he would start it, and he worked that way with aviation." Charles Lindbergh was extremely careful, she said, to the point where he always claimed his flight had nothing to do with luck.
"It was meticulously planned, he would say. 'I had figured out that it was an acceptable risk.' But for the rest of us, it just looks astonishing, somebody of that age coming out of the West with no big companies behind him, not much money, just with a bunch of men who believed in the flight who had put up enough money to build that aircraft -- $10,580, which I was told wouldn't even buy a wheel on a modern aircraft. And off he went."
Lindbergh, who despite a lifetime association with aviation cannot fly because she suffers from epilepsy, explained she once experienced a forced landing with her father. "I was eight and we landed in a cow pasture and I was fine. He was so confident that I'm never scared of being in a plane."
Lindbergh, who is now 57, also expressed gratitude to the Spirit of St. Louis, which was built by Ryan Airlines, an aircraft company in San Diego. The Spirit safely carried her father over tens of thousands of miles of land and ocean, in tours across the United States and Latin America, as well as to Paris. Overall, the Spirit flew nearly 500 hours and is still considered "flyable" by the museum's experts.
"In fact," Lindbergh said, referring also to Tingmissartoq, the Lockheed monoplane, "I quite probably owe my life to (these) aircraft, because had he not flown the Spirit of St. Louis to Paris, he would not have been invited to Mexico, where he met my mother. And he would not have flown Tingmissartoq 'north to the Orient,' as my mother wrote, and charted (air routes) around the world, and they were such good pilots that they came back safely and had me."