When Charles Lindhberg became the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic, his flight took him from New York to the internationally famous city of Paris. The glitz and glamour of this moment was easily one of the biggest happenings of the first part of the twentieth century. Lucky Lindy leaving from the most populous area in the United States and landing his plane in the vicinity of the Eifel Tower in the renowned city of Paris, the circumstances lend themselves well to the accomplishment. What about the first non-stop flight across the Pacific Ocean though? Was it Tokyo to Los Angeles? Hong Kong to Seattle? Maybe Sydney to San Francisco? No, the first non-stop flight across the Pacific Ocean was accomplished by Clyde Pangborn and his navigator Hugh Herndon and began at Samishiro Beach, Japan and landed at Fancher Field above Wenatchee and East Wenatchee. Thatâ€™s right, such a big aviation first ended right here in North Central Washington.
The two most unusual things about the Pangborn-Herndon flight are that it didnâ€™t end in a major United State city as one might expect, and it also didnâ€™t end along the coast as North Central Washington is quite a distance inland from the Pacific Ocean. Clyde Pangborn had been familiar with the area, although he had served in World War I and been a barnstorming pilot for a number of years; he was actually born in Bridgeport, Washington.
The famous trip began as an attempt to break the around-the-world flight record, but after some delays the two men decided instead to answer to call of a Japanese newspaper and try to become the first to fly non-stop across the Pacific Ocean. The flight included a mechanical malfunction that had to be fixed by Pangborn exiting the cockpit and walking on the wing in 100 mile per hour winds at roughly 14,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean. After a little over 41 hours in the air and 4,500 miles traveled, Pangborn set the small Bellanca plane down, named the Miss Veedol, on its belly at Fancher Field. It was quite a local sensation at the time, as most would imagine, to think such a small rural area would have a connection to such an international event was very exciting.
A monument was erected at Fancher Field and the name Clyde Pangborn is now famous all over the Wenatchee area. Thousands of travelers now fly in and out of Pangborn Memorial Airport, located just east of the city of East Wenatchee, on a daily basis. Clyde Pangborn went on to recruit airmen and fly in World War II, become an accomplished test pilot, sell airplanes for major aircraft manufacturers, and be buried in Arlington National Cemetary after his death; but there is still a great deal of local pride in the Wenatchee area all because of where Clyde â€œUpside-Downâ€ Pangborn decided to land his airplane one day.
A working replica of Pangborn and Herndonâ€™s plane, the Miss Veedol, has been constructed and is flown and toured from time to time.
There is a small model of the Miss Veedol that sits near the northern entrance to the city of East Wenatchee.
East Wenatchee and Misawa, Japan have established themselves as sister cities because of their shared ties to the Pangborn-Herndon flight across the Pacific Ocean.
View current day photos of what has become of the Fancher Heights area where the historic flight ended.
View photos of Wenatchee, East Wenatchee, and many other communities in our NCW Communities Photo Gallery.