Thursday, November 30, 2023

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)"
03 July 2009

Pancho Barnes Visits the Spruce Goose (again)!

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If you've read the Production Journal entry from February of last year, you may remember that our friend Barbara Rowland shared a wonderful story about Pancho when we interviewed her two years ago.  Namely, that she accompanied Pancho on a trip to Long Beach, California, to meet up with Howard Hughes.  At that time, Hughes was considering donating his HK-1 super plane -- known as the "Spruce Goose" -- to an aviation museum.  Pancho'd apparently heard about his plans, and decided to lobby him on behalf of the fledgling Antelope Valley Aero Museum.  According to Rowland, Howard Hughes actually took them to see the aircraft in its hangar.  "I had no idea who Howard Hughes was," Rowland admitted to us with a laugh.  "I had no idea!"  She could be pardoned her ignorance, as she was a young woman at the time.  But few people nowadays, in the wake of The Aviator, could claim they'd never heard of the man or his amazing plane.  

Now, we have the pleasure to announce that something really special is in the works!   On SSpruce Goose at Evergreenaturday, July 11th, Amanda Pope and I will be in McMinnville, Oregon, home of the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum and ... drum roll please ... the Spruce Goose.  We'll be showing The Legend of Pancho Barnes in the IMAX Theater, and hopefully getting the grand tour of one of history's great aircraft.  We know it won't be as amazing a tour as the one Barbara Rowland had, but probably still very memorable!!

If you are in the vicinity, then you must attend this screening.  With a little luck, and I'm not going to jinx it, we will have a very special guest in attendance.

Tickets are available through the Museum's special events department.  Simply call (503) 434-4023, or email events(AT)   You can also download a flier via the Museum's website here.

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