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ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Your copy of the "Davis-Monthan Airfield Register" with all the pilots' signatures and helpful cross-references to pilots and their aircraft is available at the link. Or use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author. ISBN 978-0-9843074-0-1. Pilot Barnes can be found on pages 126 and 146.

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There are a few biographies of Pancho, as well as a TV biography that aired during the 90s. Try:

Barbara Schultz' 1996 book "Pancho"(Little Buttes Publishing Co., Lancaster, CA, ISBN 0-9652181-0-4) describes her flight to Rock Hill which brought her and her passenger to Tucson in October, 1930.

Lauren Kessler's 2000 book "The Happy Bottom Riding Club" (Random House, NY, ISBN 0-375-50124-X) is an encompassing biography, beginning with some history of her grandfather, Thaddeus Lowe.

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See this link for information and photographs of the remains of the "Happy Bottom Riding Club", and of the airport that Pancho built to serve it.

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Pancho Movie

Follow this link to learn about a new film about Pancho available from Amazon.com. The film is the winner of an Emmy and multiple film festival awards including Best Documentary Film and Audience Awards in 2010. ''Pancho'' Barnes was the first woman stunt pilot in Hollywood in 1929 and shattered Amelia Earhart's air speed record in 1930. In the 1940's and 50's, Pancho entertained the greatest test pilots in the world, the men with the right stuff at the infamous ''Happy Bottom Riding Club'' guest ranch near Edwards Air Force Base. When Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in the Bell X-1 in 1947, he partied with Pancho. She was a swaggering, forceful, ill-behaved woman whose exploits and accomplishments are truly the stuff of legend.

The film features never-before-seen photographs and film footage and interviews with many of Pancho's friends including astronaut Buzz Aldrin and famed test pilots Bob Cardenas, Bob Hoover and Chuck Yeager. Narrated by Tom Skerritt, with Kathy Bates as the voice of Pancho Barnes.

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Barnes has a fairly good Web presence. As of the date of upload of this page, there are over 27,000 Google hits.

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FLORENCE LOWE "PANCHO" BARNES

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)
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)
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 dates?).

Here is a copy of the page from her pilot log book that documents her Mexico trip. Interestingly, her hours are

"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 dedication.

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)
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 of NC4419.

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.

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Dossier 2.4.8

THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 04/28/05 REVISED: 08/22/05, 02/27/08, 02/16/11, 08/21/12, 01/14/14

 
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WHAT'S UNUSUAL ABOUT THESE REGISTER ENTRIES?

First, Pancho's flight to Mexico in NC6477 was the first round trip by air made by an American female pilot to Mexico City.

Second, the airplane Pancho flew to the Davis-Monthan Airfield On October 15, 1930, NC4419, is still registered with the FAA. It is being restored in Georgia.

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