HER FIRST VISIT TO TUCSON ON THE WAY
TO A MILESTONE
Florence Lowe "Pancho" Barnes flew to Tucson and
signed the register three times, twice as pilot in command and once as a passenger. There are many classic photographs of her that you can find on the Web. The following two images are public domain via the Los Angeles (CA) Herald Examiner.
Pancho Barnes and Her Travel Air "Mystery Ship" (Source: Public Domain)
One candid photograph of her is on dmairfield.org as part of the Cosgrove Collection. You can view it here. She was a sister of many female aviators who signed the Register. Below, she is shown with (L-R) Barnes, Mildred Morgan, Clema Granger, Patty Willis (Clover Field Register signer), Gladys O'Donnell and Mary Charles. Compare this photograph with the ones on Mary Charles' page. The photos were clearly taken on the same day.
Pancho Barnes With Other Register Pilots (Source: Public Domain)
Barnes' first visit at Tucson was as a passenger with pilot Roy Harding on Friday, July 12, 1929. Based at Los Angeles, CA, they flew in the Travel Air 4000, NC6283. They were southeast bound, arriving from Phoenix, AZ. They did not provide a destination or departure date.
Her first landing as pilot in command of her aircraft was on February 25,
1930. Her airplane was a Travel Air, NC6477. After spending
the night in Tucson, she was headed for Nogales, AZ on the
border as a first leg of a tour of Mexico. Her passenger,
Marino Samaniegos, was her interpreter/mechanic.
Here is a chart of their trip. Note the first stop after
Davis-Monthan southbound at KOLS, Nogales. Then she flew to
Los Mochis on the west coast, then to Mazatlan (MMMZ), Guadalajara,
and on to Mexico City arriving on March 2nd.
She departed after many festivities,
returning to Nogales and Los Angeles for more festivities
on March 9th. She was credited as being the first woman pilot
to penetrate the interior of Mexico by air, although Mildred
Morgan is also cited as having flown to Mexico City in
February, 1930 (exact dates unknown by me; anybody KNOW the
Here is a copy of the page from her pilot log
book that documents her Mexico trip. Interestingly, her hours
"OK'd" by H.C. Lippiatt, a Beech Travel
Air dealer from Los Angeles, who also signed the register
six times between 1927 and 1933. Another example of the closeness
of the Golden Age aviation pilot community that visited the
Davis-Monthan Airfield. Thanks to Barbara Schultz (left sidebar) for sharing with us this page from Pancho's pilot log.
A HARROWING SECOND TRIP THAT BROUGHT
PANCHO TO TUCSON
Her second landing was on Wednesday October 15, 1930 at 12:45
PM. She was age 29. Her passenger this day in NC4419 was Bert
White, a well-known stunt parachutist. They were westbound
to Los Angeles and home after a harrowing east-west journey,
which began as follows. According to Pancho’s biography,
the Irvin Airchute Company hired her to fly White from Los
Angeles to Rock Hill, SC (his home town) to perform at a park
Their eastbound trip to Rock Hill was fraught with bad weather.
They departed Glendale, CA on October 3 “after dark”
according to her pilot log. They flew to Phoenix and on October
4 “dodged storms” enroute to Sweetwater, TX. They
remained grounded until the seventh, and then flew to Monroe,
LA. Between Monroe and Montgomery, AL, they were “forced
down” twice and turned back once. They finally made
it to Rock Hill on October 11, abbreviated their performances
(Pancho logged 40 minutes of “passenger” time
with White at Rock Hill), and departed westward the next day.
Their return trip was no better, noting another landing for
weather near Dallas. At Tucson on the fifteenth, it must have
been welcome relief to be a day’s flight from home.
According to her pilot log, they made El Paso to Tucson to
Glendale after flying 8 hours and 15 minutes.
Here is a graphic of her October flight. This itinerary,
and the one for Mexico, above, was derived from a copy of
her pilot log book that was made available to me by the current
owner of NC4419.
Besides her two landings at Tucson, she is also signed in the Clover Field Register five times. Please direct your browser to the link to learn about the contexts of those landings.
THE AIRPLANE SHE FLEW IS STILL REGISTERED
WITH THE FAA!
The airplane she flew with Bert White was NC4419, a Beech
Travel Air 4000, which is still registered with the FAA and
is being restored to flying condition in Georgia. It has appealing
history. It is S/N 379, manufactured in February 1928, and
purchased in March from the factory by Howard Hawks, a Hollywood
movie director. It came with a 220 HP Wright J-5-C, S/N 8286.
Hawks registered it as NX4419, flew it 156 hours for movie
work, and sold it in October to H.C. Lippiatt, a dealer. Pancho
bought it from Lippiatt on November 24, 1928. She paid $2,500,
plus her old Travel Air as trade in.
She bought it initially for, “photography and motion
picture work”. However, in 1929 she registered it as
NR4419 and flew in the Powder Puff Derby that year. She did
not finish due to a collision with an automobile on the runway
in Pecos, TX on August 22. Reviewing Pancho’s pilot
log, she notes for that historic race simply, “8/18,
19, 21, 22/29; 8hr 30; Biplane; Women’s Air Derby ‘29”.
Below, a postal cachet signed by Barnes shared with us by site visitor Jeff Staines. This cachet captures an instant during the Women's Derby at Douglas, AZ.
U.S. Airmail Cachet, September 20, 1929 (Source: Staines)
On July 3, 1930, she registered her airplane as NC4419 after
the factory made, “…changes in fittings to correspond
with approved type”. Pancho was the third owner and
flew NC4419 about three years. She flew it 359 hours, over
half of her 618 total hours before her last use on March 8,
1931 for a 30-minute hop from Glendale to Mines Field. Pacific
Airmotive Corp. confiscated NC4419 in 1933 to satisfy a $1,649.38
material and labor lien for repairs that Pancho defaulted.
Later, Pancho’s Travel Air changed hands 23 times.
In 1934 the NR mark was reassigned to the fifth owner, and
registration records note, “Oil tank installed in front
cockpit and lines running therefrom [sic] to exhaust pipe”.
Two owners during the 1930s used it for skywriting.
It changed hands nine times during WWII. It lived with several
owners in the west and southwest until 1963, and then moved
to Georgia. Today, an air transport pilot owns NC4419. It
is being restored by the staff of Barnstormer’s Workshop
in Williamson, GA. Download this PDF
file to see "then" and "now" photographs
MORE THAN A LIFE IN AVIATION
Throughout her life, Pancho flew the curves of her airborne
universe without deflection. She raced airplanes and set records,
married and divorced several husbands (one an Episcopal minister, with whom she was seriously mismatched), founded and operated
several businesses, and spent and partied her way through
a couple of fortunes. In the 1940’s, she ran the “Happy
Bottom Riding Club”, a post-war watering hole for Muroc
test pilots, now part of aviation lore. Born into wealth July
29, 1901, leader of the good life, Pancho died in March 1975
amidst tragic poverty.
THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 04/28/05 REVISED: 08/22/05, 02/27/08, 02/16/11, 08/21/12, 01/14/14