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)"
18 September 2010


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Unfortunately, "Pancho Barnes Day" — the annual celebration of Pancho's life and legacy — won't be happening this year.  Flighttestnationa That's the bad news.  The good news is that "Pancho Day" should return in 2011 and, drum roll please, this October 1 a truly special (dare I even say, "landmark"?) event will take place not far from the site of Pancho's old ranch.  Those of you who follow our Facebook page know of what I speak ... the USAF is having an open house and invited 100 civilian pilots to fly into the base and land on the lakebed!  The lucky winners of a lottery (supposedly over 1000 people applied!) held on the Flight Test Nation website have just been announced, and you can read the tail numbers here.  Also attending will be a whole other group of people, allowed to drive in to the site by car.  Rumors have been circulating that there will be a special attendee performing as Pancho Barnes at the event.  People are mum about the casting of this person, who the heck would dare try to fill those flying boots?  Guess I'll learn the answer to that mystery on Oct. 1!

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