Tuesday, March 28, 2023

The Emmy™Award-Winning Documentary Film

"Broadcast" version now airing on most public television stations.

"Uncensored" version now on DVD and in film festivals.

Synopsis: A charismatic figure featured in Tom Wolfe's book The Right Stuff, Florence "Pancho" Barnes was one of the most important women in 20th Century aviation. A tough and fearless aviatrix, Pancho was a rival of Amelia Earhart's who made a name for herself as Hollywood's first female stunt pilot. Just before WWII she opened a ranch near Edwards Air Force Base that became a famous -- some would say notorious -- hangout for test pilots and movie stars. Known as the "Happy Bottom Riding Club", it became the epicenter of the aviation world during the early jet age. Chuck Yeager celebrated breaking the sound barrier there in 1947, and Howard Hughes and Jimmy Doolittle caroused in the bar. The Club's destruction by fire in 1953 is seen by many to mark the end of a Golden Era in post-WWII aviation. In the same fashion Pancho herself has become something of a legend, a fascinating yet enigmatic icon whose swagger is often celebrated, but whose story has been largely unknown. Until now.

A documentary film produced and written by Nick Spark and directed by Amanda Pope. Featuring interviews with test pilots Bob Cardenas, Bob Hoover and Chuck Yeager, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, and biographers Barbara Schultz and Lauren Kessler. Narrated by Tom Skerritt with Kathy Bates as the voice of Pancho Barnes.

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Women in Aviation
"Read Nick Spark's article about Pancho
from Women in Aviation magazine (.pdf)"
21 January 2007

The Mystery of the "Mystery Ship" #2

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Just about a year after she first saw the Mystery S in Cleveland, Pancho announced that she intended to break the women's speed record in her ship. In late September of 1930 she made a first attempt at Metropolitan Airport in Van Nuys. A small team of personnel were assembled including the National Aeronautic Associastion's official timer, Joe Nikrent. After having a barograph installed to record the attempt, Pancho took off , roared into the air, and then flew four fast laps over a mile-long course at an altitude of less than 200'. Unfortunately she fell short of Amelia Earhart's record speed of 184.6 mph.

Undaunted, Pancho returned for another go the very next week. On August 1, she flew with the throttle wide open. This time Nikrent timed her at a maximum speed of 197.26 mph, and an average speed of 196.19 mph. She had shattered the old record by nearly 12 mph, and became the "fastest woman on earth."

(The record stood for about a year, when aviatrix Ruth Nichols flew 210 mph in a Lockheed Vega).

The record flight made all the newspapers and thrust Pancho firmly into the public eye. Union Oil, a sponsor of Pancho's, produced a full-page color ad to record her achievement. It read in part, "Fastest mile ever traveled by a Woman...!" and stated that the flight was "...a skillful combination of sheer nerve, skillful piloting, faultless motor and ship and perfect aviation fuel."

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The Legend of Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom Riding Club ©2008-2010 Nick Spark Productions, LLC.