Miss Veedol

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Miss Veedol
MissVeedol.jpg
Miss Veedol replica in Misawa (Japan) Aviation and Science Museum
Type Bellanca J-300
Registration NR796W
Owners and operators Hugh Herndon
Fate Renamed The American Nurse, lost June 1932
This monument in Misawa commemorates the flight of Miss Veedol.

The Miss Veedol was the first airplane to fly non-stop across the Pacific Ocean. On October 5, 1931, Clyde Pangborn with co-pilot Hugh Herndon crash-landed the plane in the hills of East Wenatchee, Washington, in the central part of the state, and became the first men to fly non-stop across the northern Pacific Ocean. The 41 hour flight from Sabishiro Beach, Misawa, Aomori Prefecture, Japan won them the 1931 Harmon Trophy, symbolizing the greatest achievement in flight for that year.[1]

Aircraft[edit]

Miss Veedol was a 1931 Bellanca J-300[2] Long-Distance Special, registration NR796W.[3] It was built at Bellanca Airfield in New Castle, Delaware. It could carry 696 US gallons (2,630 L) of fuel.[2] Clyde Pangborn and Hugh Herndon modified Miss Veedol while being held in Japan—on unfounded suspicions of spying—to be able to carry more fuel, and to be able to jettison their landing gear. The Miss Veedol carried an initial load of 915 US gallons (3,460 L) of aviation gasoline on her record-breaking flight.[4]

As "Veedol" was an American brand of lubricating motor oil, it seems likely that Miss Veedol was named for it. However, it is unclear as to whether Veedol's manufacturer, Tidewater Oil Company (Tydol) partially sponsored the aviation endeavors of Herndon and Pangborn.[citation needed]

Background to the flight[edit]

Herndon and Pangborn had been trying to set a speed record for a round-the-world flight, but after a number of delays along the way including a damaging landing in Khabarovsk, in the Soviet Far East, they found themselves 27 hours behind schedule and had to concede breaking the record set earlier that year[5] by Wiley Post and Harold Gatty. Looking for a worthwhile aviation record to set, they decided to modify Miss Veedol to make the first non-stop trans-Pacific flight, for which the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun had offered a $25,000[6] prize.[7]

Flight[edit]

Loaded to well beyond the manufacturer's maximum operating weight, the Miss Veedol only barely managed to take off from a specially prepared area of Sabishiro Beach. The landing gear was jettisoned as planned, three hours after take-off, but two supporting struts remained attached, making it necessary for Pangborn to climb out of the aircraft to remove them manually. Pangborn subsequently criticised Herndon for his alleged incompetence, both in allowing the engine to be starved of fuel and in flying further than their originally planned landing area while Pangborn was asleep. In the first case, the aircraft dove to 1400 feet[8] before the engine could be restarted.[9]

Landing in America[edit]

Upon reaching the Pacific Northwest, they found that the weather was cloudy and rainy over most of the area. They first considered to travel on to Boise, Idaho to add the 'longest flight' onto their already accomplished 'nonstop Pacific crossing' record. Soon they found that weather would prevent their landing in Boise, so they turned towards Spokane, Washington. When the weather also prevented their landing there, they headed southwest towards Pasco in the Tri-Cities area of the state. When that failed, they finally headed towards Wenatchee to land at Fancher Field, far from town.[10] When they got there, they had to make a belly landing because they had disposed of Miss Veedol's landing gear over the western Pacific. She was damaged, but repairable, and her propeller was wrecked, but Herndon and Pangborn came through the landing all right.[1] The bent propeller is the only part that currently exists of Miss Veedol and it rests in the Valley Museum and Cultural Center in Wenatchee.[11]

As Herndon and his mother had been the main financial backers of the flight they kept almost all the prize money and the proceeds of sale of Miss Veedol.[1] Pangborn and Herndon did not qualify for the $100,000 prize offered by the (Japanese) Imperial Aeronautics Association (which was limited to Japanese aviators) or the $28,000 prize offered by a group of Seattle businessmen (which was for a flight originating in Seattle and ending in Japan).[7] Pangborn received a mere $2,500 for his part in the flight and continued, much as before, as an airmail pilot, air racer, and a test and demonstration pilot.[9]

Fate of aircraft[edit]

Miss Veedol was later sold to a group of backers including one Dr. Leon Pisculli, who recruited pilot William Ulbrich and copilot Gladys Bramhall Wilner (13 August 1910—3 July 2009)[12] for a record New York to Rome flight. Plans for the flight included a flyover of Florence, Italy, where Wilner was to parachute to the ground in honor of Florence Nightingale, as Wilner was a pilot, a nurse, and a parachute jumper (apparently the only such woman then in existence.) After Wilner dropped the project, a dancer Edna Newcomer replaced her. The Miss Veedol, renamed The American Nurse, departed Floyd Bennett Field for Rome in June 1932 and was last seen by an ocean liner, 640 km west of its intended landfall in Spain. It was never heard from again.

Gladys Wilner died at the age of 98 in Jacksonville, Florida; she was the last surviving person to have ever flown in Miss Veedol (as The American Nurse).[13]

Commemorations[edit]

The Pangborn-Herndon Memorial Site is located north east of East Wenatchee; the main feature is a basalt column designed by Walter Graham. The site gives views of the Columbia River, the East Wenatchee and Wenatchee Valleys.[14][15]

In addition to the Miss Veedol replica in the Misawa Aviation and Science Museum, there is a somewhat cruder replica of Miss Veedol on display outdoors on Sabishiro Beach at 40°44′43.8″N 141°24′55.3″E / 40.745500°N 141.415361°E / 40.745500; 141.415361 (Sabishiro Beach). This replica was destroyed during the 11 March 2011 tsunami which caused widespread damage in the coastal area of Northeast Honshu.

A flying replica of Miss Veedol was built over a period of 4 plus years by Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 424. This replica (also known as Spirit of Wenatchee) first flew in May 2003. This aircraft is based at East Wenatchee, Washington.[16][17]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Clyde Pangborn and Hugh Herndon, Jr.: First to Fly Nonstop Across the Pacific (p 5)". Weider History Group. 2006. Retrieved 2011-08-01. 
  2. ^ a b Heikell, Edward and Robert, One Chance for Glory, Amazon Book, ESPN 1468006088, May 22, 2012, P.61
  3. ^ "Bellanca". aerofiles.com. 2009. Retrieved 2011-08-01. 
  4. ^ "Clyde Pangborn and Hugh Herndon, Jr.: First to Fly Nonstop Across the Pacific (p 3)". Weider History Group. 2006. Retrieved 2011-08-01. 
  5. ^ Heikell, Edward and Robert, One Chance for Glory, Amazon Book, ESPN 1468006088, May 22, 2012, P.89
  6. ^ Heikell, Edward and Robert, One Chance for Glory, Amazon Book, ESPN 1468006088, May 22, 2012, P.91
  7. ^ a b "Clyde Pangborn and Hugh Herndon, Jr.: First to Fly Nonstop Across the Pacific (p 1)". Weider History Group. 2006. Retrieved 2011-08-01. 
  8. ^ Heikell, Edward and Robert, One Chance for Glory, Amazon Book, ESPN 1468006088, May 22, 2012, P.175
  9. ^ a b "Clyde Pangborn and Hugh Herndon, Jr.: First to Fly Nonstop Across the Pacific (p 4)". Weider History Group. 2006. Retrieved 2011-08-01. 
  10. ^ Heikell, Edward and Robert, One Chance for Glory, Amazon Book, ESPN 1468006088, May 22, 2012, P.187
  11. ^ Heikell, Edward and Robert, One Chance for Glory, Amazon Book, ESPN 1468006088, May 22, 2012, P.218
  12. ^ "Search for 'Gladys Wilner' on Social Security Death Index (via Rootsweb.com)". 2011-08-02. Retrieved 2011-08-02. 
  13. ^ "Obituary: Gladys Bramhall Wilner". The Times-Union (Jacksonville, FL). 2009-07-08. Retrieved 2 August 2011. 
  14. ^ "Pangborn-Herndon Memorial Site--Aviation: From Sand Dunes to Sonic Booms: A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary". National Park Service. 2008. Retrieved 2011-08-01. 
  15. ^ "Pangborn-Herndon Memorial Park - Eastmont Metropolitan Parks & Recreation, East Wenatchee, WA". Eastmont Metropolitan Parks & Recreation. Retrieved 2011-08-01. 
  16. ^ "Spirit of Wenatchee, Home of the Miss Veedol". Spirit of Wenatchee (EAA Chapter 424 pilots). 2010. Retrieved 2011-08-01. 
  17. ^ "The Spirit of Wenatchee". North Central Washington Directory. Retrieved 2011-08-01. 
Bibliography
  • Heikell, Edward T. and Robert L. Heikell. One Chance for Glory: First Nonstop Flight Across the Pacific. Charleston, South Carolina: CreateSpace, 2012. ISBN 978-1-468006-087.