They both started out in St. Louis, Lindbergh in his single-engine plane, "The Spirit of St. Louis," Lucky in his Cessna two-engine plane, "The Spirit of Dreams," but there's where the similarities end. Lindbergh flew to New York, then straight over the Atlantic to Paris. Lucky, during all the takeoffs, landings and navigating, took a more circuitous route, although not an easy one.
Lucky, his longtime instructor, Stan Mick, plus a safety pilot, flew from New York to Quebec City, then up the St. Lawrence Seaway and Newfoundland, then four hours over the Atlantic Ocean to Greenland, Iceland, Edinburgh, Scotland, and finally, Paris. Flying time from St. Louis was 32 hours, at 180 mph.
I am proud to say I'm the official chronicler of Lucky's trip, so his dad kept me posted on the progress of his flight after he talked with Lucky and the various control towers closely tracking Lucky's little plane along the way. Several times his father Mark could hear Lucky's voice crackle over the radio, "This is Cessna Alpha Romeo," when Mark called the control tower and the man answering the phone put it down to verify Lucky's position.
Lucky called me after he landed at Le Bourget. I asked him what was the toughest part of the flight. He said it was in Greenland when he flew 40 miles over the fjords at 1,000 feet, with glaciers and 3,000-foot mountains on either side. At the end of the fjord was another glacier rising in back of the airport. There was a sharp tailwind and no room to turn around. "If you screwed up, you crashed," he said, very matter of factly.
Lucky said landings were the most difficult maneuver he had to perform, and he did most of them himself (except when the winds were too rough and when he got airsick a couple of times). "You just have to do so much in so little time," Lucky said about landing. "You have to put three wheels down going 100 miles per hour from 7,000 feet to less than 150 feet."
Why did he do it? His dad said he fought homesickness, airsickness and doubts about whether he could make it. (It's hard to remember he is an 11-year-old boy.) But Lucky told me why: "Because it's my dream. It was my dream."
I asked him if he had any other dreams now, and he answered like a seasoned performer: "Not ones that I'd like to discuss."
Lucky appeared on ABC-TV's "Good Morning America" two days after he touched down in Paris. I'd listened to Mark's recounting of Lucky's progress, and I knew how hard the trip had been for him. But when he got to Iceland, "There was no turning back. I'd made it. Europe was only a couple of stops away and I was going to get there." And he did. But as his dad said, "This wasn't an aviation feat. It's really an effort by a little boy. It's a test of will."