Wall of Honor Location:
Foil: 21 Panel: 1 Column: 1 Line: 28
Wall of Honor Level:
Air and Space Sponsor
Miss. Irma Story
Aviation pioneer Florence Lowe "Pancho" Barnes became a legend in her own lifetime because of her many accomplishments as a world renowned pilot. Granddaughter of Civil War Balloonist Thaddeus Lowe, she was born into a life of wealth and privilege in San Marino, California in 1901. Following in her grandfathers footsteps in her passion to fly, she entered the first Women's Transcontinental Air Derby in 1929. She later went on to become a Hollywood Stunt Pilot, barnstormer, Bendix air race pilot and Lockheed test pilot. In the early 1930's, she preformed maximum weight take offs for Lockheed at Muroc Dry Lake. During the filming of "Hell's Angels," she won her battle with motion picture producer Howard Hughes over wages and benefits paid stunt pilots and subsequently founded the Associated Motion Picture Stunt Pilots union. She captured the speed record from Amelia Earhart in 1930 at a speed of 196 miles per hour and beat Roscoe B. Turner by 20 minutes in an air race from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Firmly believing that women should be part of military aviation, she also founded the Women's Air Reserve. Recognizing that Muroc Dry Lake in the California Mojave Desert was a perfect place to fly, she purchased a ranch nearby in 1935 and put in an air strip and facilities for her Civilian Pilot Training Program. In 1939, to celebrate the completion of her air strip, she hosted her first fly-in for the 99's and her other pilot friends. In 1941, with the completion of her hangars and class rooms at her airport, she enrolled several women including Irma "Babe" Story, into her C.P.T. Program, where upon graduation, they entered the W.A.S.P. Program. During WWII, Pancho's airport was taken over by the military to house several top secret projects. Ever the patriot, Pancho was very proud of her volunteerism to America's war effort. After the war, Pancho turned her ranch into a first class "fly-in" resort and dude ranch, which featured an air strip, hangars, flight instruction, a 20 room motel, swimming pool, bar, dance hall, restaurant, RCA sanctioned rodeo grounds, 100 quarter horses and two race tracks. Her resort soon became "the" fly-in destination for her old pilot and Hollywood friends. In 1946, she announced she would give a free steak dinner to the first man to break the sound barrier. Chuck Yeager collected that free steak on October 14, 1947. Also in 1947, Pancho decided to restrict visitors to her ranch and formed a private club for her friends. General Jimmy Doolittle gave the Happy Bottom Riding Club its name, with himself, Chuck Yeager and Bob Hoover being its first members. In its heyday, Pancho's club had over 9,000 members and included the world's most famous pilots. Today, Pancho is affectingly remembered and honored as one of the 100 greatest women in aviation. She was a pioneer and a trail blazer for women in aviation and was a member of the Barnstormers, Associated Motion Picture Stunt Pilots, OX-5 Fraternity, the 99's, and the Silver Wings Fraternity. As a tribute to her accomplishments in aviation and her friendship to military pilots, Chuck Yeager dedicated the Pancho Barnes room and bar in the Edwards AFB Officers Club in her honor in 1964. Pancho died in 1975 and her ashes were sprinkled over her beloved ranch, which is now part of Edwards AFB. In 1995, her ranch was deemed eligible to be nominated to National Register of Historic Places. Her greatest passion in life was to fly and to help others, especially women, learn to fly.