In 1927, Charles Lindbergh received acclaim for piloting The Spirit of St. Louis across the ocean — the first non-stop transatlantic flight between New York and Paris.
Yet two weeks before, French aviators Charles Nungesser and François Coli also attempted the journey in an effort to win the Orteig Prize. Strapped into their byplane L’Oiseau Blanc, they took off from Paris for New York, only to disappear before arrival. The remains of their plywood and canvas-covered plane have never been officially recovered.
A sad story of failure? The tragedy of a near-miss? On the contrary. To this day, the disappearance of L’Oiseau Blanc is considered one of aviation’s great mysteries. Creating a great mystery is an amazing accomplishment in anyone’s book, and 80 years later their attempt continues to be the source of investigation and conjecture.
And how many pilots from yesteryear are celebrated with a rooftop restaurant in Paris named after their doomed byplane, featuring a delicious “pâté en croûte” complemented by artichoke and foie gras from Aveyron? Further proof that bad outcomes do not equate with failure, but lead to fine dining opportunities in the world’s most romantic city.
As the SuperOptimist knows, it’s in the attempt that life is best measured. All hail Nungresser and Coli, true heroes who tried their best!