What psychological need did a good, modest self-made hero like Lindberg fill during a period of moral decline of the 1920’s? I know people were focused on scandal, “crimes of the century” and exciting circus-like news stories and at some point, people became disillusioned with this sort of lifestyle. People wanted to find the “good” again. Americans were seriously seeking purpose and value from life during the period. Why did disillusioned Americans filled with tabloid trash fall immediately in love with the modest and charming unlikely hero?
Here's an interesting factoid: not the first person to make a nonstop transatlantic flight. Two British pilots named Alcock and Brown completed a crossing eight years earlier, and with inferior equipment. Even Lindberg himself said that "Alcock and Brown showed me the way."
As far as his importance to America at the time, I don't think it had as much to do with the era as we might think. In my opinion, every nation needs to honor some people above others in order to win political points. It matters less if they are actually superior people in any way, as long as we can put them up on our shoulders and say "See? We're #1!"
(eNotes Wiki) --> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transatlantic_flight_of_Alcock_and_Brown
(History Site) --> http://www.aviation-history.com/airmen/alcock.htm
(Opinion Site) --> http://www.zakkeith.com/articles,blogs,forums/Charles-Lindbergh.htm
You might like to consider the way in which key elements of the American Dream were encapsulated in the figure of Lindberg. This was of course a key reason that he became such a popular figure in popular imagination. When I always think of Lindberg I remember reading an excellent book by Philip Roth called The Plot Against America that paints an alternative version of history and what it could have looked like.
This was a period in which the United States was really coming into its own as a world power. The Europeans had decimated one another during World War I and seemed, in some ways, to represent the past. The U. S., to many people -- including many Europeans -- seemed to represent the future. Lindbergh seemed to symbolize much of the optimism associated with the U. S. during this period. It's important to remember that he was hailed on both sides of the Atlanttic. He had shown what an astonishingly young technology was able to accomplish in a few short years. His achievement suggested that the world had suddenly become a much smaller, potentially more intimate and perhaps even more friendly place.
I don't agree that the '20s were a time of excess and greed. This was a time of new and exciting things, but also of a backlash against the changes caused by those new things. Lindbergh appealed to both parts of this society. On the one hand, he was connected to the new ways because he was a pilot. On the other hand, he seemed to embody traditional American values. In this way, he could appeal both to people who liked the new things and those who feared them.