Tuesday, June 25, 2024

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)"
27 May 2009

San Diego Event a Big Success !

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We had a terrific fund raising screening in San Diego, with over 200 people in attendance!  Among them were Bill and Claudia San Diego Air and Space Museum AnnexAllen of the Allen Airways Flying Museum.  These two wonderful people, along with Jim Kidrick and the staff of the San Diego Air and Space Museum, helped put the whole event together. The venue was the Museum's annex at Gillespie Field, where various airplanes are restored and refurbished.  It was a place that Pancho herself may have visited in days gone by, a possibilty underscored by a display honoring the members of the famed OX-5 Aviation Pioneers Club. Yes, Pancho was an honorary member . . .

The same day we screened the documentary, Bill and Claudia presided over a "fly in" at the Allen Airways facility that involved dozens of historic aircraft.  Many of the pilots were in attendance that evening, and that made it an extra special event.  Here were people who actually understood the difficulties of flying cross country in an open cockpit, in an airplane that was more fabric than metal!  To top it all off, we had three or four past members of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels in the room, and a relative of San Diego aviatrix -- and one of Pancho's good friends -- Marvel Crosson.  The guests of honor were also friends of Pancho:  Patrice Demory and Brig. Gen. Robert Cardenas.  General Cardenas, who is one of the few people inducted into both the Commando and Aviation Halls of Fame, stayed late to sign autographs and shake hands.

All in all, it was a truly memorable evening.  Thanks to everyone who helped make it a reality, and to everyone who came. 

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