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 their plane, the Miss Veedol, in the hills of East Wenatchee, Washington, in the central part of the state. and they 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.
Miss Veedol was a 1931 Bellanca Skyrocket J-300 Long-Distance Special. The Miss Veedol could carry 800 gallons of fuel. 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 950 gallons of aviation gasoline on her record-breaking flight.
Herndon and Pangborn had been trying to set a speed record for a round-the-world flight, but while in Japan, they received news that a new and insuperable (by them) record had already been accomplished. Looking for a worthwhile aviation record to set, they decided to modify Miss Veedol to make a non-stop trans-Pacific flight.
Upon reaching the Pacific Northwest, they found that the weather was cloudy/rainy over most of the area. Upon scouting out several possible airfields in Washington and Oregon for landing – and finding them “socked in” by bad weather – Herndon decided that conditions would be better near his home town of Wenatchee, which is in a dry area of central Washington. When they got there, they had to make a belly-landing, of course, 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.
Since there was an American brand of lubricating motor oil named “Veedol” back then, there seems to be some connection and Miss Veedol was named for that. It is unclear as to whether the Veedol company partially sponsored the aviation endeavors of Herndon & Pangborn.
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 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 Newcomber replaced her. The Miss Vedol, renamed the American Nurse, departed Floyd Bennett Field for Rome in June, 1932. It was never heard from again.
As of 2009, Gladys Bramhall Wilner, aged 98, , pioneering aviatrix, archaeologist, dies at 98. Gladys Bramhall Wilner, who flew air races against Amelia Earhart and later dug for evidence of early human habitation in America, died Friday June 3, 2009. She was 98. Mrs. Wilner, who was known as Peggy, was born in Wyalusing, Pennsylvania. She trained as a nurse and worked in Brooklyn and Manhattan. In the early 1930’s she learned to fly after only two hours’ instruction. She held the first Parachute Rigger License ever earned by a woman, number 192, in 1931. In the early 1930’s she competed in air races and flew air shows, including the all-woman Annette Gipson Air Race in 1934 at Roosevelt Field, New York (Amelia Earhart won). In 1932 she was recruited to fly nonstop to Rome from Floyd Bennett Field in New York. The Bellanca airplane to be flown was named the American Nurse, in honor of Mrs. Wilner, who was the only woman available who was a nurse, a pilot, and parachute jumper. Scheduled to parachute over Florence, Mrs. Wilner eventually declined to participate (the American Nurse was lost at sea during the attempt). In later years Mrs. Wilner earned degrees in archaeology from the University of Texas and did field work on early human habitation in the Americas, finding possible evidence that humans inhabited North America earlier than the widely accepted date of 11,000 B.C. Formerly married to the late Albert Wilner, Mrs. Wilner is survived by her daughter Nadine Beezley of Tucson, Arizona, her son, attorney Norwood S. Wilner, of Jacksonville, Florida, and six grandchildren. The Times-Union, Jacksonville, FL, 8 July 2009.