Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Florence Lowe "Pancho" Barnes

Aviation History Biography....

Florence Lowe "Pancho" Barnes

"Pancho Barnes--air racer, record setter, daredevil, and all-around free spirit--was one of the most respected fliers of the Golden Age of Flight, not just because she was a woman but also because she was a fine pilot. Barnes was an extremely colorful, flamboyant, and headstrong individual who left her mark wherever she went. She broke many stereotypes about women, not only as pilots, but also as simple mild-mannered creatures. She was famous for her salty language and dirty jokes. According to one contemporary, "she did not have a single inhibition." For Pancho, flight was necessary "to keep from exploding. It acts as a safety valve so far as I am concerned." She also claimed that flying was "a panacea for too many social duties, too much home management, too much everything conventional."

Pancho was born Florence Leontine Lowe to a wealthy family on July 22, 1901. Wanting for nothing, she grew up in a huge mansion in San Marino, California, and attended the area's finest private schools. Her father, an avid sportsman, encouraged her to appreciate the great outdoors and Florence became an accomplished equestrian. Florence's grandfather, Thaddeus Lowe, also influenced her early development. He had started the nation's first military air unit, the Army of the Potomac's balloon corps, during the American Civil War...."

"....[Barnes's ranch near] Edwards Air Force Base, home of the world's fastest experimental test planes and pilots, [....] proved a fine place for pilots to party until all hours. Horses were available for riding, and Barnes built a restaurant and bar, a coffee house, a dance hall, a swimming pool, a motel, and even a private airstrip. For Edward's pilots, Pancho's place became a home. Eventually, it became known as the "Happy Bottom Riding Club," referring to the happy horseback riders who relaxed there.

In 1952, Pancho's party finally came to end. Edwards needed room to expand its runways onto Pancho's land, and her civilian guests' planes were encroaching on Edward's air space. Although Pancho sued Edwards to retain her property, an unexplained fire broke out on the ranch and ended the dispute...."

Florence Lowe "Pancho" Barnes
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