Long before entrepreneurs launched cars into space, pilots of the 1920s and 1930s were beholden to people of wealth who could sponsor record flights or offer cash prizes for the first intrepid aviator to achieve a specific milestone flight.
Clyde Pangborn and Hugh Herndon teamed up in an effort to be the first to span the Pacific from Tokyo to the United States, but only after a round-the-world record attempt eluded them.
A native of Bridgeport, Washington, Pangborn was an adroit aviator who first groomed his skills during World War I. Herndon had the good fortune of access to sufficient wealth to underwrite his aviation interests.
The two initially collaborated for a run at the round-the-world flying record, seeking to break the leisurely 20-day pace logged aboard the dirigible Graf Zeppelin in 1929.
Wiley Post and Harold Gatty trimmed that globe-girdling time down to eight days and 15 hours before Pangborn and Herndon could execute their plan. The aircraft of choice for Pangborn and Herndon was a deep-bellied single-engine Bellanca “Long Distance Special” painted bright red and christened “Miss Veedol” for a motor oil sponsor. [Read more…]