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)"
17 January 2007

The Mystery of the "Mystery Ship"

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It's nearly impossible to think of Pancho Barnes' career in aviation without thinking of her Travel Air "Mystery Ship." This powerfully-built aircraft with its distinctive streamlined wheel pants and NACA cowling seemed to fit Pancho's outsized personality to a 'T'. In many photos the plane seems to be a part of Pancho, in a way similar to the role played by Roy Roger's horse Trigger.

Pancho first saw this unique plane back in 1929 at the Cleveland Air Races. Dubbed the 'Mystery' because it's construction was kept under wraps by builder Walter Beech, the plane was an immediate sensation. Aviator Doug Davis won a speed competition against an Army Hawk that year, despite initially missing a pylon and falling nearly a mile behind at the start of the race. Pancho, deeply disappointed at her failure to finish the Powder Puff Derby, wanted a Mystery Ship. The odds did not seem to be in her favor. There were only a few in production, and they seemed destined for only the most skillful — male (it goes without saying) — pilots. Nevermind. Pancho was relentless, and she won out. For just over $13K, an absolute fortune in those days, she bought one. She now had the fastest plane in the world. Just imagine what she'd do with it!

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