Pangborn flew 4500 miles over water in a Single Engine Land airplane, jettisoned his landing gear into the ocean to save drag, climbed outside at 17,000 feet in the frigid air at night to make repairs, put the airplane into a terrifying dive to 1400 feet to restart the engine, diverted the flight path to avoid collision with Mt Rainier and finally belly-landed (crash landed) on a dirt strip cut out of the sage-brush land above Wenatchee, Washington, to complete his trip over the Pacific Ocean in 1931. Charles Lindbergh became a household name four years earlier by flying the 3600 miles solo over the Atlantic.
His co-pilot was Hugh Herndon, Jr. who had marginal flying experience. He was taught to fly in a private school in France and had very little practical knowledge about aviation or navigational skills. What he did have that Clyde needed was the financial backing of his mother. If Hugh could be trained to be a worthy co-pilot, Clyde would have all of the ingredients he would need to continue his career as an aviator.
The custom airplane that they bought was a modified version of the Bellanca Sky Rocket. It was not a fast airplane, but was known to be very reliable, had long-range capability and a strong engine and big wing to get heavy fuel loads out of short unimproved fields. While its specified limits were well established, using it to cross the Pacific Ocean was not part of the design criteria. Whenever the specifications were violated, they would have to rely on Clyde Pangborn’s knowledge, which was referred to as the “Pangborn Factors”.
Clyde Pangborn and Hugh Herndon took off from Sabishiro Beach, Misawa, Aomori, in Japan on October 4, 1931. From the moment they took off the flight was plagued by problems, but they managed to land safely at Fancher Field in Wenatchee, Washington, forty one hours and fifteen minutes after they took off.