Cadets ‘fly’ 32-plus hours to simulate Lindbergh’s flight

Air Force JROTC cadets simulating Charles Lindbergh's trans-Atlantic flight included, from left, pilots Jonah Jenkins, Tyler Renn, Daniel Irvine and Sean Motz. (CONTRIBUTED)
Air Force JROTC cadets simulating Charles Lindbergh’s trans-Atlantic flight included, from left, pilots Jonah Jenkins, Tyler Renn, Daniel Irvine and Sean Motz. (CONTRIBUTED)

MADISON – The 33.5-hour, trans-Atlantic flight of Charles Lindbergh was re-created on Feb. 15-16 by Air Force JROTC cadets at Bob Jones High School.

The cadets used flight-simulator computer equipment for their grueling reenactment on Lindbergh’s 3,600-mile, non-stop flight in 1927.

“In today’s vernacular, the event immediately ‘went viral’ and remains one of the most celebrated events in aviation history,” Randy Herd said. Herd and Ellis Clark are AFJROTC instructors at Bob Jones.

Cadets in the simulation were William Dykstra, John Dyson, Mark Gallagher, Daniel Irvine, Jonah Jenkins, Sean Motz, Tyler Renn; Andrew Smith, judge Christian Weiss and coordinator Albin Dolney.

Starting at 9 a.m. on Feb. 15, cadets used Microsoft’s Flight Simulator Century of Flight software. “In addition to learning the flight’s science, engineering and history, they faced the same challenges of navigation, problem-solving and fatigue that Lindbergh faced,” Herd said.

A pair of pilots flew two aircraft, while four flew solo. Pilots had five-minute breaks every two hours and a 10-minute break every third break. Their time lime was 35 hours.

Leaving Long Island, all six airplanes reached Cape Cod within one hour. Six hours later, the planes skirted Nova Scotia and in another 4.5 hours reached Newfoundland, the last landsite.

Over the North Atlantic, pilots experienced “a nighttime period with no land references to guide them. They relied on a navigation technique, called dead reckoning, to adjust heading at regular intervals to stay on course,” Herd said.

After 27 hours, the first pilot reached Ireland. “At Hour 31, it was obvious not all pilots would be as fortunate as Lucky Lindy,” Herd said. One plane ditched in the North Atlantic, too far from land with too little fuel. Running low of fuel, one plane landed safely in Ireland and two in England.

Attempting to cross the English Channel, one pilot fell short of France and ditched. One plane did cross the channel to the Seine River and followed it to Paris with a successful landing, arriving in 32 hours, 39 minutes — besting Lindbergh’s 33.5 hours.

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