This Day in Aviation History

October 3rd, 1931
3rd to the 5th
Hugh Herndon and Clyde Pangborn make the first non-stop flight across the Pacific Ocean, from Samushiro Beach, Japan, to Wenatchee, Washington in 41 hours in a Bellanca J-300 Long Distance Special.

Several major obstacles faced the Americans if they were to 
successfully complete the first non-stop Trans-Pacific flight. First, 
the Bellanca would be overloaded with fuel; consequently, they 
needed an extremely long runway from which to take off. They 
solved this problem by moving the plane approximately two hundred miles north of Tokyo to the 8,000-foot runway at Sabishiro Beach. 
Second, even with the extra fuel, Pangborn calculated that they 
might not have the range to complete the flight if they encountered 
anything but perfect flying conditions. Therefore, he designed and 
constructed — without the knowledge of the Japanese — a 
mechanism that would enable the flyers to drop the Bellanca’s 
landing gear once it was airborne. This would effectively increase 
the airspeed by fifteen miles per hour or add approximately 600 
miles to their range from the expected 40-hour flight.

Final preparations for the flight were completed by the first of 
October. Despite the loss of their maps and charts — reportedly 
stolen by a radical nationalist society, which hoped to sabotage the 
flight — Pangborn was anxious to leave before the Japanese 
reconsidered their decision to allow the flight. After waiting several 
days for the weather to clear, the Americans began their historic 
flight on the morning of October 4th (Japanese time). The big 
Bellanca, burdened with 930 gallons of fuel and weighing in excess 
of 9,000 pounds — far beyond the manufacturers’ recommended or 
even tested specifications — reluctantly took to the air and headed 
out over the Pacific. Three hours into the flight, Pangborn dropped 
the wheels to reduce wind resistance; the wheels fell into the sea off the Japanese coast, but the landing gear struts did not release. 
Pangborn remedied this situation about halfway through the flight 
when he turned the controls over to Herndon and at 14,000 feet 
above the icy waters of the North Pacific, he crawled out onto the 
wing supports and freed the two landing gear struts. His experience 
as a wing walker in his early flying days had made the difference 
between a successful flight and a crash-landing; an attempted belly 
landing with the landing gear struts in place would have proved fatal.

Fighting the bitter cold in the late autumn skies over the Gulf of 
Alaska, the two fliers coaxed the “Miss Veedol” toward the U.S. 
Mainland. Earlier there had been several large cash prizes offered 
for different versions of this record flight, but on nearing the U.S., 
Pangborn simply wanted to put down….

Spirit of Wenatchee:

Wikipedia, Clyde Edward Pangborn:

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