First Flight: An airplane made to duplicate Lindbergh’s historic feat passes a big test of its own.

Great State

BETHANY, OKLAHOMA — Robert Ragozzino has been looking forward to this day for the past 18 years.

“It’s been a long time coming,” he agrees.

As both pilot and project manager, he sat in the cockpit of a nearly accurate replica of the Spirit of St. Louis watching a dream roar with new life.

He smiles and quips, “The bottom line is completing the first flight.”

We’ve followed the Spirit 2 project for a few years now, and last peeked in this Associated Aero Service hangar at Wiley Post Field in the Fall of 2020.

“Every one of these pieces had to be made by hand,” he said pointing to an antique looking instrument cluster.

Replicating Charles Lindbergh’s epic New York to Paris achievement had proved more difficult and expensive than anyone predicted.

“We put a ton of time and money into it,” he says. “I think it’s going to do a great job.”

So at 3 o’clock on a still, January afternoon the Spirit 2 left the ground for its first flight.

Lindbergh custom built the original and outfitted it with extra fuel tanks to get him the 3,600 miles to Paris.

Ragozzino’s aircraft is the same but for a few FAA requirements.

His pilot seat is a lightweight wicker chair.

It also handles like a piece of technology from the 1920’s.

“It’s going to take some practice,” he says. “It handles like a Mack truck with the power steering disconnected.”

The first flight of the Spirit 2 didn’t last long, maybe 15 minutes, long enough to know what to work on next, and long enough to bring the ultimate goal, a non-stop flight from New York to Paris, just a little closer in the overcast skies of central Oklahoma.

Ragozzino says, “All this is just a series of incremental steps to get to Paris.”

“Is it a milestone to fly it? The real milestone is getting it back here in one piece.”

Learn more about the Spirit 2 project.

Great State is sponsored by WEOKIE.

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