Saturday, October 13, 2012

Strong is Sexy Woman of the Past: The Legend of Pancho Barnes

She was a famous aviatrix with a foul mouth, a fondness for cigars, a taste for booze, and a passion for flying. Pancho was even a test pilot at Edwards AFB and a Hollywood stunt flier. You name it, this girl did it.

She was born Florence, however, and thought her mother trained her to be a lady, it didn't take, as they say in the documentary I watched.

Cool, random things I learned from watching this:
-Her grandfather made hot air balloons and took photographs  from them during the Civil War...right over the battle scene.
-She called the most important man in Air Force at 3am one day to demand a fellow visiting her bar get a raise.
-She had an arranged marriage of sorts to a minister. All the women loved her and she felt he tolerated her.
-In 1927, after the death of her mother, she ran away and worked on a banana boat. She looked like a man. "I took a bandanna, tied it in a knot, and stuffed it in my jeans. I had the best looking balls on the boat."
-Instead of going to hubby's Sunday sermons upon her return, she was taking flying lessons. He'd preach. She'd fly. She would even dive bomb at his church. ROFL
-The dept of commerce believed women should not fly whilst on the rag as they were irrational then. Um...
-She paid 13k for Travel Air's mystery ship. In 1929, that was a LOT of dough.
-She organized a women's flying medical corps.
-When Howard Hughes refused to pay more than 25 bucks to his stunt fliers, Pancho organized a union.

The documentary continues to tell us about her Happy Bottom Riding Club, her fourth marriage, her adventures with the test pilots of Edwards AFB, the battle with the government over her land, the accusations, the fire that ruined everything, and so on. She even had breast cancer.

It was the end of an exciting time with her death in 1975.

Favorite quote from the doc:
"I am not a pretty girl. I can apologize for that the rest of my life or I can forget about it and live the kind of life I want to."

This is available on netflix.


  1. This is so cool. I was just talking about Pancho Barnes a few days ago. I know a writer who wrote a play about the Happy Bottom Riding Club. Wasn't Amelia Earhart also in this club?

  2. The Happy Bottom Riding Club was a bar on the outskirts of the AFB base. The club you are thinking of was actually started by Amelia and was called the 99's. Pancho was a member, but she did not like Amelia Earhart. LOL

  3. I was telling my husband about your blog and he said he used to work with Pancho's son, Bill Barnes, at GE Flight Test. We don't live too far from Edwards AF Base. Last he heard a pilot over there was restoring her last remaining plane.

  4. Wow!!! Just wow! I have a pilot inspired by Pancho in one of my WIPs...not sure it will see the light of day, but I've had a lot of fun with it. I'd love to see that restored plane. Perhaps your husband can get a photo when it's all done.

  5. Shared on my Facebook author page. I'd heard of her, but knew nothing about her.

  6. I recently came across your site and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

  7. Thank you, Daisy! I hope to see you back. There's something for everyone. :)