Thursday, May 23, 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)"
28 May 2009

A Celebration of Women's Aviation -- and Pancho Barnes!

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Celebration of WomenIt's extremely exciting to announce that The Legend of Pancho Barnes will be the centerpiece of a wonderful event, held on June 21st at the Centennial Airport near Denver, Colorado.  "A Celebration of Women's Aviation" is the inaugural event for Air Mail Greetings Presents, a new promotional entity formed by famed aviation artist (and designer of our poster), impresario Joe Jones.  The Celebration will consist of a whole afternoon of events, including a special fund raising screening of Pancho.  Famed pilot, author and former president of the Ninety-Nines Gene Nora Jessen will be in attendance, along with Amanda Pope and myself, and a whole host of famous pilots including original Tuskeegee airman Lt. Col. James H. Harvey.

Air Race Classic PosterWhat's even more thrilling, is that the Celebration coincides with the Air Race Classic.  This all-women's air racing event takes place from June 23-26th, as daring aviatrixes fly from Denver to Atlantic, Iowa.  In doing so, they are not only having a terrific competition, but commemorating the 80th anniversary of the original "Powder Puff Derby" women's air race, which featured Louise Thaden, Amelia Earhart, Marvel Crosson, and yes -- Florence "Pancho" Barnes!  The pilots and crews of the modern-day air racers will be in attendance at the Celebration, and available to sign autographs, discuss the race, and do what they do best -- inspire young men and women to earn their wings.  

 We're honored to be part of this amazing event, and to show the film at a special private screening on the 30th for the race participants, because this event resonates with our project like a well-hit tuning fork.  So thanks are due in advance not only to Joe Jones for having the vision to put together the event, but also to the sponsors of the Air Race Classic which include the EAA and Ninety-Nines.

Did I mention, by the way, that author Gene Nora Jessen who is going to be in attendance, also appears in our film?  Well yes, she does! Did I also mention she is one of the so-called Mercury 13 group of women astronaut candidates?  Well, I just did!  And as it happens, she's also the author of The Powder Puff Derby of 1929, the definitive history of the race that Pancho could have won -- if only fate hadn't intervened (see earlier issues of the Production Journal).  Anyway, those who attend will therefore have an opportunity to meet a real legend in women's aviation, and buy a copy of Gene Nora's book.  (Although, you may be torn if you have a bank account that's low on currency, as Gene Nora also has a new book that's just been printed, The Fabulous Flight of the Three Musketeers.  This memoir is about a flying tour Gene Nora did back in 1962 to introduce the  Beech Musketeer.)

 To read more about the Air Race Classic, click here.  To learn more about the Celebration of Women's Aviation, and purchase tickets, click here

The event is by the way in need of additional sponsors.  If you want to help support something truly worthwhile, please use the contact buttons on the Celebration of Women's Aviation website.

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