An Inside Look at the Spirit of St. Louis

Lindbergh could see forward only by means of a periscope that extends from the left side of the cockpit, or by turning the aircraft to look out of a side window.
Interior view looking from the tail forward.
The original nose cone from the Spirit of St. Louis was signed by the Ryan Aircraft employees who helped to manufacture it in 1927. (The swastika in the center was a good luck symbol, and pre-dates its adoption by the Nazis.) Before the aircraft’s maiden flight, a crack was discovered in the aluminum behind the propeller, forcing Lindbergh to replace the nose cone. The replacement was done at Curtiss Aircraft, and the technicians saved the original nose cone, recognizing its potential value.
This patch had to be applied after Lindbergh landed in Paris. He and his aircraft were swarmed by 100,000 people, and one cut out the Ryan logo on the right side of the rudder for a souvenir.
During his flight, Lindbergh made a mark on the instrument panel for each hour of fuel consumed.
The Hirox 3D microscope used to inspect the cowling during conservation.
Repairs made to the aircraft 22 years ago are still intact, but painting new dope (a lacquer that renders the fabric airtight and waterproof) onto the original dope caused damage. Here, conservator Karl Heinzel consolidates flaking dope on the Spirit.
A detail view of the left side of the >i>Spirit’s rudder showing the original Ryan winged “R” logo.
After his record-setting flight, Lindbergh toured the U.S. and Central and South America. At each stop, a local artist painted the country’s flag on the Spirit’s cowling. The paint on many of those flags now requires conservation. Shown here is a detail of the eye of the Canal Zone pirate emblem, as seen under the Hirox 3D microscope.

As the Spirit of St. Louis undergoes conservation, staff at the National Air and Space Museum are getting a close look inside the iconic aircraft—for the first time in 22 years. Click on the thumbnails above to see some of the things they’ve found.

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