Pancho Barnes Was Way Cooler Than Amelia Earhart

Photo of Pancho Barnes from

The other day, I was flipping through channels when I settled in on a documentary on PBS. I was only partially paying attention at first, thinking it was just another typical show about aviation history, but then the narrator started discussing the "Powder Puff Derby," a transcontinental air race for women pilots back in 1947. The film covered how women pilots were never taken seriously back then, and how this infuriated one pilot, in particular, by the name of Florence Lowe Barnes, or better known as "Pancho."

It turns out, I was watching a documentary called The Legend of Pancho Barnes, and I must say, it didn't disappoint. Pancho was a badass. I audibly yelled out, "NO WAY!" about 20 times during the rest of the film. Some of the things she's done were unbelievable.

A few fun facts about Pancho:

  • She was one of the first female aviators and test pilots. 
  • Her first husband was a minister, but she still swore like a sailor.
  • Founded the first union for movie stunt pilots.
  • Raced alongside Amelia Earhart and broke Earhart's air speed record.
  • Survived a plane crash.
  • Owned the "Happy Bottom Riding Club," a bar and restaurant in the middle of the Mojave Desert that catered to pilots working at a nearby army air base.
  • Sued the US Air Force for raking her name through the mud while they were trying to steal her and.
  • Basically, didn't give a fuck about anything but pilots and planes.

The documentary is definitely worth a watch and it's free to watch on Hulu.

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