NORMAN — On May 20, 1927, Charles Lindbergh began his famed transatlantic flight from New York to Paris. On May 20, 2013, a former University of Oklahoma student and corporate pilot of 33 years plans to recreate that flight in what he’s dubbed the Spirit of St. Louis 2.
Robert Ragozzino, formerly of Norman — though now of Sausalito, Calif. — said his plane, now mostly a bare fusilage with wings, still needs some work before it’s flightworthy, though he took the next step in the recreation project within the last few days.
On Friday night, Ragozzino hosted an approximately 30-person going away party for his plane-in-progress at his leased Max Westheimer Airport hangar. His lease at the hangar had run out, and on Saturday, he began disassembling the plane for transport to a different hangar in San Francisco.
Ragozzino said his crew has loaded one of the plane’s 500-pound wings into the plane’s logoed semi, and the rest of the plane is to be prepared for transport on Wednesday.
Once the plane arrives at its new hangar, crew members will install an antique — though never used — World War II-era plane engine and, once acquired, an antique aluminum propellor.
“It’s basically a 1927 aircraft,” Ragozzino said of the handmade replica.
Although the plane is not yet complete, Ragozzino said it’s come a long way with the help of his 75-member project crew, which includes engineers, fabric specialists and fundraisers, among others.
“People don’t realize when you see these things ... but it takes years of devotion,” the pilot said. “It takes a village. It’s a labor of love that goes on for years and years.”
He said his crew hopes to take the historical project to the public.
“A lot of the golden days of aviation are lost,” Ragozzino said. “It (Lindbergh’s flight) might even be bigger than the man landing on the moon.”
Though the height of aviation may be decades in the past, the project manager and pilot said people were fascinated by the flight in Lindbergh’s time — as evidenced by the nearly 40,000 letters he received — and interest remains high today.
Ragozzino said the project was made possible only with the help of numerous crew members and contributors, including project founder and funder Scott Royer and funder Marvin Bay, both of Greeley, Colo.
Joel Pruett 366-3540 email@example.com