On this day in 1927, Charles Lindbergh took off from Long Island, N.Y. in his custom-built Spirit of St. Louis. The plane was so fuel-heavy that it barely cleared the telephone wires at the end of the runway—and the close calls didn't end there. Lindbergh became sleepy after only a few hours and decided to fly within 10 feet of the water to keep his mind sharp. The fight to stay awake persisted. He later held his eyelids open, and in a fog, hallucinated that ghosts were passing through the cockpit. Some 3610 miles and 33 hours after departure, Lindbergh landed in Paris and became the first person in history to make a solo transatlantic flight. He’d been awake for 55 hours.
Exactly five years later, Amelia Earhart flew out of Newfoundland in her red Lockheed Vega to become the first woman (and second person) to pilot a solo flight across the Atlantic. She was already a well-known figure for being the first woman to cross the Atlantic in an aircraft as part of a team in 1928. After that arduous flight, she spoke to The New York Times:
"Tired and hungry, but cheerful," she commented, lounging in her wooly coat and breeches and stout leather boots. "And we got here all right. There wasn't any race with Miss Boll, but, of course, I'm glad to be the first woman across."
On her solo journey four years later, weather and technical troubles forced Earhart to land in Ireland instead of Paris, about 2447 miles and 14 hours into the journey. It was plenty far enough to make her way into the history books.
How did the historic aviators pack for their respective flights? Lindbergh brought five sandwiches and said, "If I get to Paris, I won’t need any more, and if I don’t get to Paris, I won’t need any more either." Amelia Earhart brought chicken soup in a thermos and a can of tomato juice, which she opened with an ice pick.