Brothers bring historic flight to life

Print Article

Pangborn and Herndon flew across the Pacific Ocean in the Miss Veedol, a plane that the Wenatchee chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association recreated.

MOSES LAKE - Most people know that Charles Lindbergh was the first person to fly solo, nonstop, across the Atlantic Ocean. Most people don't know who the first person to fly nonstop across the Pacific Ocean was.

That's a problem Edward and Robert Heikell intend to solve.

The Heikell brothers have penned a historical novel, "One Chance for Glory," to be released later this month. The book chronicles the historical trip across the Pacific Ocean made by pilot Clyde Pangborn and his co-pilot, Hugh Herndon Jr.

The brothers consumed every bit of information on Pangborn they could get their hands on, including scouring his papers, which are stored at Washington State University.

Edward, who lives in Everett, is a retired Boeing aeronautical engineer and a commercial pilot. Robert, who lives in Moses Lake, is a former public school teacher and principal. He has his private and commercial pilot licenses, has worked for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and has been involved with Big Bend Community College's flight school.

Robert first became interested in Pangborn's story when he heard a presentation on it by the late veteran aviator Arnie Clark.

When he learned that the Wenatchee chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) planned to build a full-size replica of Pangborn's plane, the Miss Veedol, he was hooked, he says.

"Here's this fantastic accomplishment that nobody knows about," he says. "It really struck me as something that was in the first place very interesting, exciting, and in the second place kind of sad that ... people didn't know about it."

He began telling everyone he knew about the story and soon his brother Edward became just as captivated. Robert helped raise attention to the EAA's effort to build a replica of the Miss Veedol by building an award-winning, quarter-size, radio-controlled model ?of Pangborn's plane.

It was Edward's idea to put the story to paper.

"One day he said, 'You know, there needs to be a book about that,'" says Robert. "'That's a story that needs to be told.'"

Pangborn was born in Bridgeport, Wash., before moving to Idaho. A veteran of the U.S. Air Service in World War I,  he became a barnstormer with the Gates Flying Circus after the war, putting on shows featuring aeronautical acrobatics.

After the government began cracking down on barnstorming, pilots needed new ways to make a name for themselves, says Robert.

"In that time in our history, aviation was all about setting records," he says. "Everybody was going to set a record. Fly the highest, fly the furthest, fly the fastest, whatever."

Pangborn decided to attempt to circumnavigate the globe, beating a record set by the Graf Zeppelin airship in 1929. He was joined by Hugh Herndon Jr., whose mother's riches funded the expedition.

While that record proved unattainable, the duo set their sights on another one.

After landing in Tokyo, they learned of an English-language Japanese newspaper offering a $25,000 reward to the first pilot to fly solo non-stop across the Pacific Ocean.

"There had already been six guys that had tried to do this flight, some Americans and some Japanese," says Robert. "Some of them lost their lives ... Now these guys were going to try it."

Pangborn and Herndon landed in East Wenatchee on Oct. 5, 1931, after flying for 41 hours and 15 minutes. They traveled 5,500 miles, more than 1,800 miles farther than Lindbergh's flight across the Atlantic Ocean. A memorial to the flight exists near the landing site and a piece of the plane's original propeller is owned by a Wenatchee museum.

The Heikells speculate that the reason Pangborn's feat is not as well known as those of Lindbergh and other pilots is because of a year-long gag order placed on Pangborn by the Herndons.

"It's every bit as important as Lindbergh's story or Amelia Earhart's story," says Robert. "From the day they started that trip, until the day they finished it, they had very, very serious challenges they had to overcome ... That trip was just one challenge after another, any one of which could have gotten them killed, but Pangborn was such an accomplished pilot and a cool head that he was able to work them through each of those things until he came out the other side ... and wound up making that huge, big flight."

To buy "One Chance for Glory" when it is released, visit www.onechanceforglory.com.

Print Article

Read More Local News

Samaritan quality of care efforts reviewed

March 28, 2017 at 5:00 am | Columbia Basin Herald MOSES LAKE — Talking to patients and families helped Samaritan Hospital cut the number of patients who fall and get hurt in the hospital. That was part of a detailed review of the hospital’s ongoing ...

Comments

Read More

House Dems’ budget to include new taxes, spending

March 28, 2017 at 5:00 am | Columbia Basin Herald The House Democrats have released their budget proposal, which includes increased spending in education and social services as well as several new taxes. The operating budget will be an overall $44....

Comments

Read More

Garden Heights gets new assistant principal

March 28, 2017 at 5:00 am | Columbia Basin Herald MOSES LAKE — Cheri Ward is bringing a lot of a experience to her new job. Ward, who is currently the instructional coach at Park Orchard Elementary School, has been teaching for more than a decade, ...

Comments

Read More

2 injured after driver allegedly falls asleep at wheel on I-90

March 28, 2017 at 5:00 am | Columbia Basin Herald MOSES LAKE — A man and his passenger were injured in a single-vehicle collision near Moses Lake early Monday morning. About 12:15 a.m. Valentin Villa Ramirez, 29, of Toppenish, was driving a 2006 Ni...

Comments

Read More

X