Norman man to replicate Lindbergh plane, flight

Friday, April 25th 2008, 1:57 pm
By: News 9

By Gan Matthews, NEWS 9

On a damp May morning in 1927, Charles Lindbergh took off in his Spirit of St. Louis plane from New York's Roosevelt Field and became the first man to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a non-stop flight.

As the sight of Lindbergh's plane became visible over the Irish coast, it has been said the whole world was cheering. After 33 hours of flying solo, the death-defying pilot was swarmed with Parisians and hoisted onto their shoulders, considered a hero by many.

"He was really in peril at all times," said Robert Ragozzino, a Lindbergh enthusiast. "He had poor weather-forecasting. He had real poor to no navigation equipment. He pretty much dead reckoned it across the ocean."

In the 81 years since the flight of the Spirit of St. Louis, no one has attempted to duplicate Lindbergh's feat -- until now. At his hangar in Norman, Ragozzino is building a replica of the famous plane. Ragozzino plans to recreate not only the plane, but the entire flight, right down to the flight suit.

"We're going to go New York to Paris (and) try to do it in exactly the same amount of time, about 33 hours," said Ragozzino. "Hopefully we'll break the record by a few hours."

This sort of daring ride is nothing new for Ragozzino. Eight years ago he captured a lot of media attention when he flew his Stearman open-cockpit biplane solo around the world.

"Doing these historic flights you personally get to experience just the thrill and the intensity of what they did back in the 20s and 30s," he said.

Like Lindbergh, Ragozzino will fly solo. Unlike Lindbergh, he will invite the world to fly along.

"Our plan is to be able to do live, satellite transmissions to the Internet so the whole world can log on and see from various camera angles exactly what the flight is like," he said.

However, Ragozzino estimates he needs another $135,000 from sponsors or in donations to get the plane ready for lift-off.

If and when Ragozzino is able to get his replica airborne, he will also replicate another route Lindbergh flew. After Lindbergh returned from his cross-Atlantic trip, he flew a 92-city victory lap across the United States. Ragozzino plans on doing the same lap when he returns from his trip as well.