Dallas, Texas - Republic Field, Long Island, New York - Departure day for Friendship Flight '97 dawned with foggy skies and low visibility. Pilot Bill Signs was up at 4:30am and at Republic Field by 5:30am. Even before Signs arrived, the news media satellite trucks were all ready in position.

The first item on the agenda was to fuel N90MB with 350 gallons of aviation fuel. Crawling all over the inside of the Friendship Flight Cessna 210, Signs individually filled each of the four internal fuel tanks before filling the two wing tanks and two wing tip tanks.

By this time reporters and photographers encircled Signs and he talked with each of them about Charles Lindbergh's flight 70 years ago as well as his commemorative flight. He talked with them about Floyd, Bennett, and Bobo bears, his traveling companions, and the five ham sandwiches he stowed on board, just like Lindbergh.

As departure time approached, Signs began his preparations for the 21 hour non-stop flight to Paris. He first pulled on a survival suit over his blue Friendship Flight flight suit and then added an inflatable life vest. Signs then took one last check of his aircraft and climbed aboard for the final leg of Friendship Flight '97.

All visitors and media were cleared from the area before Signs turned the key to bring to life his Continental engine. He then taxied to the end of Runway 14 and at precisely 7:52am Signs lifted off from Republic Airport. Climbing slowly, due to the weight of the fuel aboard N90MB, Signs headed East before turning North. He will follow the East coast of the US North until he reached St. Johns, Nova Scotia, where he will make his turn to head across the Atlantic Ocean.

Forecasted weather along his route called for clear conditions with a mild tailwind. Signs expects to reach Nova Scotia around 3pm (local), after about seven hours of flight. As the sun sets he will fly on in total darkness for about four and one-half hours before enjoying the sun rise in front of him. Signs should reach Le Bourget Airport, just North of Paris, France, at approximately 10:30am - 11:00am (local).

Le Bourget Airport, Paris, France - Friendship Flight ش97 pilot Bill Signs landed safely at Le Bourget Airport, Paris, France, on Wednesday, May 21, 1997 at 11:21 a.m. (local time) completing a non-stop flight from Republic Field, Long Island, New York, to Paris in a single-engine aircraft. Signs flight commemorated the historic Lindbergh flight with take-offs in San Diego, St. Louis, and New York, exactly 70 years to the minute of the original Lindbergh flight plan.

Although the day was gloomy with low clouds sending out waves of rain, Signs was greeted at Le Bourget Airport by more than 500 schoolchildren, lots of local dignitaries, and photographers and reporters from media outlets worldwide. It was a smiling and happy Signs that greeted the crowd from the door of his Friendship Flight aircraft. "I want to thank all of you for coming out on this rainy morning," remarked Signs, "I now have a little more understanding of what it must have been like for Lindbergh when he too climbed out of his aircraft after safely landing here at Le Bourget."

Under questioning from reporters, Signs indicated that he had indeed eaten one of the ham sandwiches, just like Lindbergh, and had battled icing, just like Lindbergh. He reported that about three hours east of St. Johns, Newfoundland, he was at 13,000 feet when he first noticed icing on the windshield. Signs first plan was to attempt to climb out of the icing, so he climbed to 13,500 feet but was still too heavy to climb any higher. The next plan was to descend to 6,000 feet. At that altitude the icing stopped and the accumulated ice melted off the aircraft. Signs continued on at 6,000 feet for four more hours.

Breaking away from the reporters and photographers for a few minutes, Signs moved over to the schoolchildren and spent some time signing programs, shaking hands, giving and receiving "hi-fives", and receiving a bountiful welcome to Paris. Once again the reporters and photographers enveloped Signs and he responded to additional questions about Friendship Flight '97, about Lindberghصs flight 70 years ago, and about his traveling companions, Floyd, Bennett, and Bobo bears.

The most difficult part of the flight occurred when Signs was 600 miles South of Greenland and it was pitch black outside the airplane. It was at that point where Signs questioned himself about why he was there. "It was at that point when I realized that if anything happened there were no alternatives available," said Signs. "Even if I could fly back to St. Johns, they were reporting below minimums as was Greenland, and Shannon, Ireland was too far away."

On top of the icing, Signs reported that at one point he had 78 knot crosswinds and his groundspeed had dropped to 108 knots due to headwinds of 35 to 50 knots. Then, 500 miles south of Iceland, his groundspeed started picking up as did his spirits. Of the 21.5 hours in the air, Signs reported that he spent about ten hours on instruments.

For Signs, one of the very enjoyable parts of the flight was the many contacts he received on the radio from airline captains going both ways over the Atlantic. "I'm very thankful to the airline captains that not only kept me going but were also able to relay my position to the controllers when my high-frequency radio was unable to transmit the distance to them," said Signs. "Once the word was out about the Friendship Flight, I chatted on 133.1 with airliners going both ways. I guess I didn't realize how busy the corridor is between the U.S. and Europe. One call came in from the captain of an American Airlines Airbus that was heading to Paris. After our chit-chat, I had the opportunity to talk with the Friendship Flight ground support crew, including my girlfriend, that were flying to Paris for my arrival. It was very comforting to hear their voices."

Physically, the only problem Signs had was a half hour of cramping in the lower intestine area while over the Channel Island area. He reported that he did jogging in place to help reduce any possible problems and felt no swelling in his feet.

One of the hardest times for Signs to stay awake occurred after the sun came up. The warmth of the sun beating into the cockpit made it difficult for him to stay awake and he found himself drifting off course by as much as 30 degrees.

Arriving in Paris, Signs was directed by air traffic control to fly around the city. "Everything is so compact in Paris," said Signs. "It only took about 15 minutes to make a 360 degree turn around the city and during that time I was even able to catch a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower." Landing on runway 27 at Le Bourget, Signs followed an airport vehicle to the reception area and the welcoming crowd.

After meeting with the various reports and photographers at Le Bourget Airport, Signs attended a reception at the Le Bourget City Hall. Along with he mayor of Le Bourget, Signs had the opportunity to meet with a variety of local dignitaries and guests and share with them the vision of Charles Lindbergh and talk with them about Friendship Flight '97. Following the reception, Signs took a quick two hour nap and then attended a welcoming bash put on by Longines in Paris.

The next day (Thursday 5-22-97) Signs began preparing N90MB for the return flight home. Two of the four internal fuel tanks came out and were replaced with two additional seats. Then all the wiring and cabling for the fuel lines and radio lines had to be repositioned to allow for the two additional passengers on the return flight. Finally all of the tanks and hoses had to be repackaged for shipment back to Dallas.

Faeroe Islands - After a busy five days in Paris, Friendship Flight '97 pilot Bill Signs along with two passengers, Jim and Ruth Jacobs, departed Le Bourget Airport, Paris, France, for the return flight to Signs home in Dallas, Texas. The trio departed Le Bourget at 1 p.m. (local time) and headed for Alderney in the United Kingdom. Alderney was the only English area that was captured by the Germanصs during World War II and the traveling trio spent Tuesday (5-27-97) checking out the WWII fortifications around the area.

Wednesday (5-28-97) morning they lifted off for Wick, Scotland. They covered the 650 NM in about four hours and were on the ground long enough to refuel N90MB and grab a quick sandwich. Then another flight took them to the Faeroe Islands, located between Scotland and Iceland. Signs reported that the landing pattern took them right down the middle of a beautiful fjord. They'll be in the Faeroe Islands visiting the sites for a day before leaving and heading on to Iceland.

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Bill Signs Author

Bill Signs

The main pilot for Friendship Flight.


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Friendship Flight 1997 Lindbergh

A commemoration of Charles Lindbergh's historic flight, 70 years to the minute. Signs retraced Lindbergh's route, departing San Diego, St. Louis, and New York, arriving in Paris, France, on May 21st, 1997 at 11 a.m. Ten thousand children are expected to participate at the airports, where Signs will share Lindbergh's accomplishments and the excitement of world-wide aviation.

  • Pilot: Bill Signs
  • Aircraft: Cessna 210L N90MB

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