Smithsonian offers close look at Spirit of St. Louis plane

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis aircraft, one of the most treasured artifacts at the National Air and Space Museum, has been lowered to the floor for its first conservation treatment in 22 years.

Meanwhile, visitors are getting an up-close look at the historic plane.

For decades, the single-engine aircraft has been suspended from the ceiling and seen from afar. Early Thursday, it was carefully lowered to the floor.

For the next eight months, the aircraft is expected to be in full view to the museum's millions of visitors as conservators repair cracks in its fabric skin and search for other damage.

Lindbergh became a hero of flight in 1927 when he made the first nonstop trans-Atlantic flight. When he landed in Paris, crowds swarmed the aircraft, tearing off pieces for souvenirs.

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