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)"
06 January 2007

Pancho's Flight into Mexico

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In February of 1930, just about 76 years ago (!) Florence "Pancho" Barnes flew from Los Angeles to Mexico City. While other aviatrixes had flown into Mexico — Matilde Moisant made exhibition flights there in the 1910s — Pancho was apparently the first to fly long distance into the interior. The reason for the flight was to pioneer an air route for Pickwick Airways. Pickwick, incidentally, had been formed just a year priot in 1929 and aviatrixes Bobbi Trout and Ruth Elder were on hand for opening ceremonies at Grand Central Airport!

Pancho flew her trust Travel Air Speedwing biplane on the long-distance flight. She was accompanied by a student flyer, Mariano Samaniego who acted as her interpreter and probably took the stick on occasion. The flight was leisurely, and according to biographer Lauren Kessler, Pancho flew for only three or four hours a day over the course of five days with stops in Tucson, Arizona, Nogales, Mazatlan, and Guadalajara.

Considering the fact that Mexico at the time had few airports, and given the fact that navigational aides in those days were primitive at best, Pancho's flight was an impressive achivement. Even more impressive was the reception Pancho apparently received in Mexico City, where she was feted by members of the Mexican Air Force and government. A great website which includes more information about Pancho's flight into Mexico can be found:


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