Trunk held photos, info on plane used for first solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean

by Kristena Hansen – Feb. 23, 2012 10:35 PM
The Republic |

Nova Hall was cleaning out his garage in Sedona 13 years ago when he discovered an old steamer trunk from World War I, no more than a few feet wide, carrying his grandfather’s initials, “D.A.H.”

Inside were pieces of family and national history.

The “treasure trove,” as Hall calls it, contained blueprints drawn by his grandfather Donald A. Hall of the Spirit of St. Louis, the airplane in which legendary aviator Charles Lindbergh flew the first-ever solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean.

Lindbergh flew from New York to Paris in 1927.

To do that, he needed a special aircraft, one that would fit his 6-feet, 3-inch frame. In the trunk were photographs of his grandfather and Lindbergh in their mid-20s, as well as letters and notes the pair exchanged regarding the aircraft.

As Nova Hall sorted through the contents, the magnitude of his find sank in. A collection of his grandfather’s photos documented the manufacturing and assembly of the Spirit of St. Louis, which was built for $6,000 by Ryan Airlines Corporation in San Diego. Donald Hall was the chief engineer and designer there.

On Saturday, some of the trunk’s treasures will be on display as part of Hall’s art exhibit, called “Flying Over Time,” which is the highlight of the Ex-STATIC — Excellence in Science, Technology And Team-based Interdisciplinary Creativity — event at Arizona State University’s West campus.

Hall calls his exhibit part museum, art show, performance space and educational workshop. The exhibit includes paintings he created in multiple mediums, particularly acrylic painting.

Ex-STATIC is part of the Arizona SciTech Festival, a collaboration between ASU, the Arizona Science Center and the Arizona Technology Council, which is hosting workshops, exhibitions, concerts and tours statewide through next month to showcase Arizona as a national leader in science, technology and innovation.

Until that day in his old garage, Hall said he had always thought his grandfather, who died before he was born, was one of several engineers behind the famous aircraft.

“My grandfather never told his story,” said Hall, now 35 and a recent ASU West graduate. “Little did I know that that was going to be my story as well.”

That discovery in Sedona was life changing for the younger Hall, who now lives in Phoenix.

He eventually ditched his longtime ambition of becoming a U.S. ambassador to instead use art to spread his grandfather’s untold story and reignite a lagging passion for science and innovation among the nation’s youth.

Hall said if his grandfather and Lindbergh accomplished that much without technology, imagine what youths today could do if science and math was more encouraged.

“They (Hall and Lindbergh) had done it when everyone had said they were insane,” yet they changed history, Hall said.

Like his grandfather, Hall too has been discouraged by others.

“I was always told I can’t make a living as an artist,” he said. “But I realized how significant for me personally it was looking into my history and how that was impacting my choices for my life.”

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