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The Lindbergh Hangar
The aircraft Hangar at the Packard Proving Grounds was built to house experimental planes that were powered by Packard Diesel engines. We have chosen to name it in honor of Charles A. Lindbergh, who flew the famous "Spirit of St. Louis" from New York to Paris in 1927, winning the Orteig Prize and who also flew Packard-powered airplanes from the hangar at the Proving Grounds. The $25,000 Orteig Prize had been offered since 1919 by a prominent New York businessman, Raymond Orteig, for the first non-stop flight from New York to Paris. Several multi-engine and multi-person crews had attempted the crossing (some never heard from again), so Lindbergh's choice of a single-engine plane and a one-man crew caused great doubt that he could do it. The plane was custom-built by Ryan in San Diego, California, using Lindbergh's life savings and funds from a group of St. Louis businessmen. The major design features were to allow it to carry 450 gallons of fuel, but Lindbergh himself admitted that he barely cleared obstacles at the end of the runway when he took off for Paris. The rest is history with his 33-hour flight, leaving New York's Roosevelt field at 4:00 AM on Friday, May 20, 1927.
Charles Lindbergh with the Spirit of St. Louis (left) and with Alvan Macauley at the Proving Grounds by the Packard-powered Stinson "Detroiter" SM1B-X7654. The first diesel-powered flight of a fixed wing aircraft had taken place on the evening of September 18, 1928, at the Packard Proving Grounds, with designer, Captain Lionel M. Woolson and Packard test-pilot, Walter Lees at the controls. On Thursday, August 15, 1929 Lindbergh flew the same aircraft, and Walter Lees' journal entry for the day is interesting:
While Captain Woolson and I were testing the Packard Diesel Engine installed in
the Stinson cabin plane, the great Lindbergh came out to the field with several
officials of the Packard Co. including Captain Woolson, a Major Lanphier, and
others. I thought of course that Lindbergh was going up for a ride, and as
I had been the only one to fly the diesel up to that time, it was only natural
to think so. (To
start the engine in cold weather, we heated each cylinder with a blow torch,
then ran the engine to warm it up. To impress the visitors who came
out to see the engine run and fly, in winter time Capt. Woolson would call me up
from the plant in Detroit, telling me the approximate time he and the visitors
would reach the Proving Grounds. We would warm the engine up in the hangar and
keep it running until we saw the car with the Capt. and the visitors turn into
the grounds. Then we would shut the engine off and when they arrived, push the
plane outside and start the engine before they could inspect it and see it was
already warm.) When Lindbergh came in I was sitting in the left hand seat.
He gave me a very superior glance, then glanced at the controls in the
co-pilot's seat to the right and said, "I want to sit on the left
side." What could I say? I switched to the right side, with Capt. Woolson
and Major Lanphier in back.
Lindbergh didn't ask me a thing about the characteristics of the engine, or how to handle the throttle, which was quite different from the conventional engine. He taxied to the end of the field, opened the throttle, took off and flew for about 15 minutes. He then landed, taxied up to the hangar, got out, and never said a word to me.
Later, when we had the Waco open cockpit plane with a diesel engine, Lindbergh came out again, also with a lot of officials. He didn't even say hello to me or look at me, but climbed into the Waco plane, took it up, stunted it quite a bit, landed and went away.
Capt. Lionel M. Woolson & Walter E. Lees with the Detroiter at the Proving Grounds.
In 2002 the Foundation was faced with moving the hangar from the infield of the test-track oval to the historic site. Steel beams were fitted into the structure to create a rigid platform so the mover's wheels could be attached for the trip. Tractor power was utilized and the venerable hangar began its slow move to its new home.
The hangar crept by the Timing Stand and onto the site. Trucks then backed it onto its new foundation. Over the next few years, the door tracks were rebuilt and installed. The exterior was sanded and painted and then in 2007 a wonderful group of local volunteers, the Glazers Union # 357 offered to use the windows in the hangar as a real-life teaching tool to give practical experience to their interns. Please click on the photo below to visit the Hangar Glazer's page.
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