Event is Friday at Havelock Tourist and Event Center

The next time boarding flight, thank Charles Lindbergh.

The controversial aviator’s famous nonstop flight from New York to Paris in 1927 is what set the state for commercial air flight thing. That story and others from the life of the famous pilot will be told at Friday’s Eastern Carolina Aviation Heritage Foundation gala dinner on Friday.

First-person interpreter Tim Clark will appear as Lindbergh for an hour-long program during which he will talk about his interesting life, concentrating on the buildup to, flight and aftermath of his 33-hour, 3,600-mile flight in the Spirit of St. Louis.

On May 20-21, 1927, Lindbergh flew the custom-built, single-seat airplane (it was basically a gas tank with wings), making it the first nonstop, transatlantic flight in history. He did the feat to win the $25,000 Orteig Prize, offered by French aviator Raymond Orteig.

“It was a big deal,” Clark said, “because you had all these competitors.”

Men better known at the time than Lindbergh had attempted and failed – in fact, six pilots died making the attempt.

Lindbergh, who was born in 1902 in Detroit and who died from cancer in 1974 in Hawaii, was the first mass media celebrity, according to Clark, whose life was speckled with firsts. He was America’s hero in the 1930s, though his heavy push for isolationism during World War II and some speeches for which he was branded an anti-semite harmed his reputation later in life.

Clark said his talk centers around the transatlantic flight, though he touches on many other issues.

“I try to cover everything,” he said. “I don’t think there was anything that went on from 1919 to 1929 that Lindbergh wasn’t somewhat involved in. And from 1929 on, it was pretty much the same thing.”

Among those events: his barnstorming days as a youth and his time as a cadet. “I get into the airmail,” Clark said, that Lindbergh set up between Chicago and St. Louis. “That was probably one of the most dangerous jobs there was. Thirty-one out of 40 of the first airmail pilots died flying airmail,” because in 1926 there were no navigational aids as there are today.

As to his transatlantic flight, “I talk about Lindberg’s decision to pursue that … and why he was called the ‘Flying Fool’ because his approach was a little bit different.

“This flight opened the door to the potential for commercial aviation,” he said. “And then with his Good Will tour, the aviation industry just took off.”

Though he would never lose either his interest or influence in aviation, Lindbergh would spend many of his later years active in environmental causes, such as campaigning to protect whales and other endangered species.

Clark said there is no way to adequately cover all of Lindbergh’s life in his talk – the kidnapping story alone could take a couple of hours. But for people who are curious about other aspects of his life, Clark’s presentation ends with about 20 minutes for questions.

The show includes a Power Point presentation of slides of historical interest.

Clark, currently a resident of New York, developed his Lindbergh program when he was working as a docent with the Flight Museum in Dallas.

The Eastern Carolina Aviation Heritage Foundation winter fundraiser is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Havelock Tourist and Event Center with tickets selling for $55 each or two for $100.

For information, call 444-4348 or go online to www.ecaviationheritage.com.