Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome’s Spirit of St. Louis Replica Flies

First test flight successful.

The most accurate reproduction of Charles Lindbergh’s famed Spirit of St. Louis ever built made its first test flight on Saturday when Rhinebeck Aerodrome Museum pilot and aircraft restorer/builder Ken Cassens took the replica Ryan NYP into the bright blue skies over upstate New York.

“It was uneventful, which is a good thing, and I was happy with the way it performed,” Cassens said of the flight. “I was pleased with the flight characteristics…nothing unexpected, other than it being nose-heavy. It trimmed out really well. A little bit hard to slow it down, because it’s so clean, and a little heavy on the ailerons, but that’s to be expected. No real surprises. It’s gratifying that it flew and I hope it keeps flying successfully. We have a lot more flight testing to do.”

Builders at the Rhinebeck museum noted that many of the same challenges Lindbergh faced in flying his Ryan NYP exist in the reproduction. The pilot has zero forward visibility because of the placement of its fuel tank. Unlike modern aircraft, the Spirit has no brakes and only a tailskid that digs into the ground to slow it on landing.

The Aerodrome’s Lindbergh project was started by Cole Palen soon after he obtained a Wright J-5 engine in the 1970s. Progress was halted over time and Palen passed away in 1993 without seeing his vision become a reality. Cassens resumed the project for the Aerodrome in 1996 with aid from the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.

“The Smithsonian provided excellent support for the Aerodrome’s project, allowing Ken to examine the aircraft up close to gather vital information, and by contributing photos and instruments, identical to those used by Lindbergh, which are installed in the Aerodrome’s aircraft,” the Rhinebeck museum said on its website.

The Spirit’s public flight debut is scheduled to take place on May 21, 2016, the 89th anniversary of Lindbergh’s landing in France after his solo Atlantic crossing in the original airplane, which hangs in the Smithsonian.


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