Lindbergh to launch LEAP prize


Eighty years after Charles Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh flew gliders from the top of Mount Soledad and over what is now the Torrey Pines Gliderport, the aviation legends’ grandson will come to La Jolla to launch the Lindbergh Prize to inspire new educational programs.

Details about the prize will be announced Friday afternoon at a press conference at the gliderport, which will also host a two-day open house to celebrate the prize launch and commemorate the Lindberghs’ historic flights.

Erik Lindbergh, an aviator and philanthropist, said the LEAP prize is part of an effort to inspire new technology. The other part is a project-based education program in science, technology, engineering and math — STEM — that Lindbergh hopes will “light up” students and inspire them to pursue their interests.

In a telephone interview from his office in Seattle on Friday, he talked about prizes and how they have spurred new technological developments.

“It’s what sparked my grandfather in 1919 to fly across the Atlantic,” he said, recalling the $25,000 Orteig Prize. “Seven teams spent $400,000 trying to win it.”

Their efforts, using off-the-shelf technology applied in unique ways, were leveraged into developing long distance travel, he noted.

He’s also involved with the X Prize Foundation, which gave its first $10 million prize to “the first private team to build and launch a spacecraft capable of carrying three people to 100 kilometers above the earth’s surface, twice within two weeks.” That prize sparked a new industry and more prizes aimed at innovators in science, technology, education, and energy and environment, according to


Erik Lindbergh, a commercial pilot, aeronautical scientist, furniture maker and sculptor, acknowledges being a C-minus student in high school because he “wasn’t engaged.”

“When I got to college, I got B’s because I was able to choose classes that interested me,” he said.

When he started flight school, he added, “I lit up so brightly, that I got a 4.0.”

In recent years, he said he has been “thinking about how we can light up kids.”

Knowing that he couldn’t solve all of the issues of our educational systems “because there are so many different factors,” he decided it was important to focus his efforts and became associated with Aviation High School in Seattle.

There they have developed a project-based curriculum that teaches through the lens of aviation and aerospace that is “fantastically successful,” Lindbergh said.

He said he wants to find ways to inspire youth so we “won’t lose them ... It could be hockey, or hip-hop ... they explore the industry” and learn about it as well as more traditional subjects.

Taking his goal of advancing innovation a step further, he founded Creative Solutions Alliance, the nonprofit behind the Lindbergh prize which will be an “accomplishment recognition prize” — like the Nobel Prize — with both cash and non-cash awards.

The prize will be used to develop a prototype education program, described at

, aimed at motivating “students to investigate, showcase and leverage creative solutions to problems. Large problems, small problems, global problems, local problems, it doesn’t matter. The key is to incentivize students to investigate problems and potential solutions to those problems as career building opportunities.”

In addition to Lindbergh’s organization, Aviation High, the Experimental Aircraft Association, and the Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation, are partners in the prize and education program.

The La Jolla Historical Society is co-sponsoring Friday’s event in its role as an “advocate for the gliderport, one of only 11 sites in La Jolla on the National Register of Historical Places,” Executive Director John Bolthouse said.

Open House

  • Torrey Pines Gliderport
  • 2800 Torrey Pines Scenic Drive
  • Friday and Saturday
  • 1 p.m. Friday Launch of the Lindbergh Prize