Who is Pancho Barnes…

WELCOME to the “Official” blog of Pancho Barnes and the Estate of Pancho Barnes.

Pancho Barnes (1901 – 1975) is considered by many to be one of the 20th century’s greatest American characters. During her lifetime, Pancho (born Florence Leontine Lowe) gained respect for her intelligence, individuality, outsized personality, creativity, entrepreneurship, humor, generosity and integrity.

A legend in the aviation community, Pancho was one of the first female pilots to be licensed in the United States, and one of the most respected pilots of the Golden Age of Flight. She began her flying career in the spring of 1928 Puff Derby – and won that 80-mile contest by completing the race 24 minutes ahead of the other well-known entrants. In early 1930, while inaugurating a new route for an airline, she became the first woman to fly into the interior of Mexico. Always up for the challenge, on August 4, 1930, Pancho beat the world’s speed record set by flying ace Amelia Earhart. Then, on August 9, 1930, she won the Tom Thumb race from Los Angeles to Santa Paula while flying to attend opening ceremonies at the new Santa Paula Airport. Later that month she competed in the first women’s transcontinental air race, the Powder Puff Derby. Early in 1931 she set a speed record from Los Angeles to San Francisco, and on March 1, 1931, she set a Los Angeles-Sacramento round trip speed record. The Governor of California presented her with a trophy that noted that she was considered “America’s fastest woman flyer.” Pancho Barnes holds the distinction of being Lockheed’s first female test pilot, and she subsequently established several other aviation records while working for Lockheed. Because of her flying skills, Pancho became famous as a stunt pilot for films of the Silent and Sound eras, including Howard Hughes’ 1930 epic “Hell’s Angels.” Later, to Hughes’ chagrin, she founded one of the first unions in Hollywood, The Associated Motion Picture Pilots’ (AMPP). Pancho’s extraordinary life and outsized personality have been dramatized as part of the sprawling 1983 classic “The Right Stuff” from Tom Wolfe’s bestseller, in which stage and film great Kim Stanley portrayed her. In a 1988 CBS TV biographical movie “Pancho Barnes,” Valerie Bertinelli portrayed her. In fact, the true story of Pancho’s magnificent life is packed with all the right stuff for a major motion picture. However, a movie focused on her many life’s adventures has yet to be made. A new, award-winning documentary, “The Legend of Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom Riding Club” by director Amanda Pope and producer/writer Nick Spark will make its National Television Debut on April 15th, 8:00PM on KOCE-TV PBS Television. It will ‘encore’ on KOCE-TV on April 20th at 9:00PM and April 25th at 11:00PM. It has been picked up by over 100 PBS/American Public Television stations. Broadcast dates will vary, likely toward the end of April or during the month of May. Check you local PBS station listings or call or email your local PBS station and ask for the Pancho Barnes documentary! CHECK OUT OUR APRIIL 13TH BLOG FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE FILM. Our official website is californialifestylebrands.com Please go to our ‘contact’ page to sign up for updates, info & news about Pancho
Barnes and the blog. We look forward to sharing our journey through PANCHOLAND with you as we tell the story of the amazing life – and the legends – of Pancho Barnes as well as events and news relating to her life, the Archive and Pancho Barnes Enterprises. PLEASE STAY TUNED!

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Dr. Louis F. D'Elia is the custodian of the Estate of Pancho Barnes and a Trustee of the Flight Test Museum Foundation at Edwards Air Force Base.