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Miss Veedol: Wenatchee's little-known flying first

A bent propeller, a preserved sandwich, and a red plane honor aviation achievement. #k5evening

EAST WENATCHEE, Wash. — East Wenatchee is home to aviation history. You'll see hints if you look around, a little red plane painted on murals, models of it hanging in a local museum.

“This story is amazing; we're shocked that people don't know about this flight," said Jerrilea Crawford, mayor of East Wenatchee. "It should have been a movie.”

It's the story of a pilot and daredevil from nearby Bridgeport, Clyde Pangborn, who flew the Miss Veedol on the world's first trans-Pacific non-stop flight.

"In October of 1931 Clyde Pangborn and Hugh Herndon Jr. flew Miss Veedol from Misawa, Japan to East Wenatchee of all places, so you can see why we claim Clyde as our hometown hero,” said Jake Lodato, who belongs to a group called The Spirit of Wenatchee dedicated to keeping the Pangborn legend alive.

They even built a bright red replica of Miss Veedol to share the story of Pangborn’s record-setting and dangerous flight.

"It's an almost unlimited list of things that can go wrong,” Lodato said.

Miss Veedol was so loaded down with fuel, she nearly didn't make it off the beach runway in Japan.

Pangborn, who was a barnstormer and air-circus performer, used his wing walking skills to climb out and jettison landing gear mid-flight for fuel efficiency.

Seattle, their planned destination was fogged in, so instead they made it to East Wenatchee — and crash-landed the plane on her belly.

“They were lucky,” Lodato said.

At the Wenatchee Valley Museum & Cultural Center you can see the only remaining part of the original Miss Veedol on display — a bent propeller. Behind the scenes is a weirder Pangborn artifact: A sandwich that may or may not have been on the record-setting flight with him. The dates don't quite add up. But still, Pangborn is a big enough deal here that someone saved his sandwich.

“To go from Misawa, Japan and land right here in East Wenatchee was a significant achievement," Crawford said. "It made aviation history and kinda put us on the map for something really special."

Misawa and East Wenatchee are now sister cities.

"I think the pilots were flying to set a record and get some prize money but what they ended up doing is connecting two cultures, two communities, and we're friends and family now,” Crawford said.

That first trans-Pacific flight may have happened almost a century ago — but here, it's part of everyday life. Lodato said there’s no doubt in the valley when the Miss Veedol replica is flying, because her engine is so loud. History that rumbles back to life with a roar each time that bright red plane takes to the skies over the Wenatchee Valley.

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