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Curator's Choice Video Collection

Cradle of Aviation Museum Historian and Curator, Josh Stoff, curates interesting short YouTube videos and provides commentary.

Virtual Museum Home > Curator's Choice > Spirit Takeoff

Spirit of St. Louis Takeoff Scene

YouTube Channel: Warner Archive, posted Nov 18, 2016

The 1957 film ‘Spirit of St.Louis’, starring James Stewart, is a reasonably accurate if uninspired, depiction of the events leading up to Charles Lindbergh’s epic 1927 transatlantic crossing.

One of the better scenes in the film, I believe, shows the difficult and perilous takeoff from Roosevelt Field. Much of what is shown is dead-on accurate, other bits are fabricated. It is well known that Lindbergh’s takeoff transpired on a dark, rainy morning (as seen here), as reports indicated the weather was clearing over the Atlantic. The scene features a replica ‘Spirit of St.Louis’, which is quite accurate, as the museum’s ‘Spirit’ sister ship, suspended in the Golden Age gallery, was mainly used for air-to-air shots in the film.

Aside from the meticulous replica, other accurate aspects are Roosevelt Field’s narrow muddy runway and the fairly small crowd on hand to witness the takeoff (at most 150 people). Lindbergh is also correctly shown peering out the side window straining to see ahead rather than using the periscope which he found to be too restrictive.

What is incorrect is Lindbergh snagging the telephone wires at the end of the runway, which never happened, although he did just barely clear the trees on what is now Merrick Avenue.

Filmed at the now-defunct Santa Maria Airport in California, the view looking north should also have included the hangers of Roosevelt Field with Westbury houses in the distance.

Also accurately depicted are the two large bounces Lindbergh made going down the runway as at first, he lifted off the overloaded plane without enough airspeed to remain airborne.

So have a look at the takeoff of the ‘Spirit of St.Louis’ – will he make it?