Skip to main content

South Salt Lake Journal

Granite Technical Institute aviation student simulates Lindbergh’s transatlantic journey

Jun 06, 2024 09:07AM ● By Sarah Brown

Owen Anderson poses with his mom Amanda Gunderson after completing the Lindbergh challenge. (Sarah Brown/City Journals)

Just before 10 a.m. on May 10, Taylorsville High School and Granite Technical Institute student Owen Anderson landed his plane, via simulator, on a runway in Paris, experiencing the same transatlantic journey Charles Lindbergh completed in 1927.

Lindbergh became the first person to fly across the Atlantic Ocean—from Long Island to Paris—alone, without stopping. 

The Lindbergh challenge is an annual endeavor that is part of GTI’s private pilot ground school course offered through their aviation program. Instructor Ted Roos issues a test, and those who score the highest get the opportunity to attempt the journey.

“Charles Lindbergh was a land-based navigator,” Roos said. “He flew the plane using basically only a compass.”

Lindbergh’s plane, known as Spirit of St. Louis, was custom built to carry extra fuel needed for the journey, the placement of which severely restricted his view. 

For Owen’s flight, Roos programmed the simulator to model the limitations Lindbergh encountered. He covered windows and technological instruments that would give Owen any modern advantage.

“Simulators are not exact, but they can do anything planes can do,” Roos said. “The simulator will go around the world,” and “you can put anything into it that you would experience in the outside world—weather, storms, rain.”

Like Lindbergh, Owen traveled with five sandwiches (handmade by Roos) and four bottles of water. He had two of each and paused for three restroom breaks.

Roos plugged a fan into the floor to keep Owen cool with the lack of ventilation in the simulator. Lindbergh had side windows opened to keep him cool and also awake.

Sleep deprivation was a primary challenge for Lindbergh, who apparently hallucinated during his 33 ½ hour flight.

Owen certainly empathized. “I didn’t realize how easy it would be to handle the boredom; it was the sleep that was the hard part to fight,” he said.

It is also not easy for Roos, who stays awake with his students to program the simulator and monitor their progress.

Owen’s mom, Amanda Gunderson, did not stay awake. She went home and waited for the call her son would soon be landing. 

She enjoys observing his passion and expressed gratitude for GTI for helping kids, like Owen, develop their interest. 

Owen would like to be a commercial pilot and is trying to accumulate hours toward his private license, which the aviation program at GTI facilitates.

Roos has been a clinical instructor at GTI running the ground instructor and flight simulator course for 12 years. Prior to teaching, he trained Navy pilots and ran simulators at Hill Air Force Base.

“It’s one of our highly coveted classes,” said Mandy Chapple, GTI’s principal.

About 5% of students in the program go on to study aviation at a university. 

Roos suggested expense as a limiting factor in student ability to pursue a license, estimating the total cost of private pilot licensing with required certifications to be $80,000 to $100,000. 

He tries to get students in the simulator as much as possible. He said he “hopes to save students some money sitting in pilot lessons.” 

After 27 hours of flying, Owen approached his landing. GTI students, staff and administration, along with Owen’s mom, tracked the monitor and cheered him on as his plane touched down.

The black curtain on the simulator was lifted, and Owen stepped out beaming with joy and exhaustion.

Owen’s peer group was energetic with support, and inquisitive about his journey. 

Roos congratulated him with a certificate, plaque and a replica of the medal Congress awarded to Lindbergh in 1928. 

Then, to have some fun, he showed photos of Owen doing doughnuts in the early morning hours, indicating the plane was temporarily on autopilot. 

“He did really well until about four o’clock,” Roos said. “Most people fall asleep at about one o’clock.”

Roos had to wake him. “At over 22 hours in, you don’t let a kid crash,” he said.

As for handling that boredom, Owen said, “I didn’t; I just flew the plane.” λ