Nearly 95-Years-Ago World Famous Charles Lindbergh Made a Surprise Landing Near Binghamton
In 1927, Joseph Stalin took control of Russia, the Harlem Globetrotters played their first-ever game, a massive earthquake hit China, killing over 40,000 people, and world-famous Charles Lindbergh made an impromptu visit to the Twin Tiers.
If you don’t know where Choconut, Pennsylvania is, it’s about eight miles south of Vestal Center in New York. One of my friends owns a business in Choconut and a few days ago, she pointed to the field across from her business and asked if I'd ever heard the incredible story of what happened in that field nearly 95 years ago. This is that story.
Who Was Charles Lindbergh?
Born in Detroit, Michigan in 1902, Charles Lindbergh was raised on a farm in Minnesota and studied mechanical engineering before leaving college to focus on flight, which was his passion. In 1923, Lindbergh took his first solo flight and then went on to become a daredevil pilot who performed for crowds at events such as fairs. In 1924, Lindbergh joined the United States Army as an Army Air Service Reserve pilot.
How Did Charles Lindbergh Become Famous?
In the 1920s, a hotel owner offered the huge sum (at that time) of $25,000 to the person who could fly from New York to Paris without making any stops. Determined to win the money, Lindbergh set off from New York on May 20, 1927, and landed near Paris just over 33 hours later. He'd done it. He'd successfully made the first solo transatlantic airplane flight and became instantly famous. Just six months later, Lindbergh would become famous to local people in the Twin Tiers.
Why Did Charles Lindbergh Land in Choconut, Pennsylvania?
On Friday, November 4, 1927, Charles Lindbergh was flying one plane while his friend Major Thomas E. Lamphier was flying another. It was a snowy day with less than ideal weather and the two pilots decided it might be better if they were to land their planes and wait out the storm. Not wanting an accidental in-air collision, the pilots decided to land their planes two miles from each other. Then, one would make their way to the second, and together, they'd fly the second plane to the location of the first. The planes came to rest in the field of a farmer just off of what is now known as Route 267 in Choconut, Pennsylvania.
What happened after Charles Lindbergh Landed in Choconut, Pennsylvania?
After landing their planes, Lindbergh and Lamphier spent the night at the home of the Reverend of St. Joseph's church, located just down the road from the field in Friendsville, Pennsylvania.
On Saturday morning, Lindbergh discovered a problem with his plane - it wouldn't start. Word got around of the problem and Richard Bennett of Bennett Field in Binghamton, the major area airport of the time, came with supplies to help. He also brought with him a young man named Edwin A. Link, who would become famous himself about a year later as the inventor of the Flight Trainer.
The equipment that Bennett brought wasn't enough and so a flight team was deployed from Buffalo in the middle of a snowstorm to bring the rest of what was needed. Lindberg, Lamphier, Bennett, Link, and others worked on the plane all day Saturday and Sunday. By Sunday evening, Lindbergh's plane had been fixed and it was decided that he and Lamphier would take off on Monday morning.
Lindbergh's Surprise Gift For Choconut Residents
Eager to lay eyes on the famous Lindbergh, nearly 2,000 people gathered in the farmer's field in Choconut on the morning of November 7. Before leaving, Lindbergh gave the crowd below an impromptu air show, one that would be talked about for generations to come.
The Notorious Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping and Lindbergh's Later Life
Personal tragedy struck Charles Lindbergh and his wife in 1932 when Lindbergh's son, not quite two years old, was kidnapped and held for ransom. Sadly, the body of their son was found only a few weeks later in some nearby woods. To escape the media frenzy, the Lindberghs moved to Europe. Lindbergh dabbled in several things, including working with a French surgeon to invent an artificial heart all while continuing to work in aviation. As World War II began and progressed, Lindbergh became active in the war effort, acting as an advisor for United Aircraft.
When Lindbergh reached his later years in life, he and his family moved to Maui where he passed away from cancer on August 26, 1974. Before he died, Lindbergh wrote several books, one of which helped him win the 1954 Pulitzer Prize.