AMHERST, N.H. - If you could afford the stratospheric fare, doing it aboard the Concorde-crossing the Atlantic, that is-was a breeze. But back in 1927, flying from the United States to Europe was a very big deal, indeed. It took considerably longer than 3.5 hours, there was no fine china or vintage wines, and, until Charles A. Lindbergh came on the scene, no one had ever made the trip alone.

On May 20 of that year, the handsome young pilot climbed into the cockpit of his silver-colored Ryan NYP on the runway at New York's Roosevelt Field. Thirty-three hours, 30 minutes, and 29.8 seconds later, he touched down on French soil-and was instantly vaulted into the pantheon of aviation's greatest heroes, a rarefied status he would maintain throughout his life and beyond, through personal tragedy, political controversy, and advances in aviation he scarcely could have imagined.

Just in time for the eightieth anniversary of Lindy's epochal flight, R&R Enterprises is offering a rare and most remarkable relic: two large remnants from the Spirit of St. Louis, the plane that carried Lindbergh across the sea and into history. While dime-sized (and typically, even smaller) remnants from the Spirit appear on the market from time to time, the unusual size of the examples to be offered-the two pieces together constitute more than eighteen square inches of fabric-elevate them to the highest level of scarcity and desirability in the field of aviation collecting. More impressive still, one of the silvery pieces bears what must be regarded as the ultimate authentication: the clear ink signature of Lindbergh himself.

The remnants were originally obtained by a member of the publicity team for the triumphant nationwide tour by Lindbergh following his return to the United States. Over a three-month period from July to October 1927, Lindy flew and touched down the Spirit of St. Louis in all forty-eight states, gave hundreds of speeches, and rode in countless parades, where he was greeted as a conquering hero by unprecedented adoring throngs.

Many surviving remnants of the Spirit were evidently removed as part of routine maintenance and repairs immediately prior to and during the tour, over the course of which Lindbergh logged thousands of miles in the air. A date of September 6, 1927 on the signed remnant indicates that Lindbergh was then in Montana; on the same day, he flew from Butte to Helena, returning to Butte on September 7 for several days of much-needed rest. The remnants remained in the family of the original owner until 1999 and have never before been offered at auction.

Other items of outstanding historical interest among the 1,500-plus offerings in R&R's May auction include a superb handwritten 1778 letter from Washington warning his aide-de-camp "to avoid the imputation of assuming powers & setting a bad example," a rare souvenir album signed by Fidel Castro, his brother Raul, and Ché Guevara, and nearly two dozen other members of the "Granma" expedition, and significant items from a wide range of other notables, including Ronald Reagan, Ernest Hemingway, Stephen Austin, the "Big Bopper," Ritchie Valens, Orson Welles, and others.

R&R's next auction begins April 30 and ends May 16. Bids are accepted online or via telephone, fax, or e-mail. For information on consigning to future auctions, visit the R&R web site at www.rrauction.com or contact Elizebeth Otto at [email protected].