Pancho Barnes

srn121

Well-Known Member
#1
I came across her when I was reading about Kirk Kerkorian and how he got into flight as he learned from her at her incredible ranch in the Mojave. She was the granddaughter of the Thaddeus S. C. Lowe who founded the first military air unit flying balloons in the Civil War. I wish I could find a better article about some of her students, but Kerkorian was impressive as hell himself and coming from nothing to be a successful boxer, he served with the RAF Ferry Command flying Mosquitos to the UK and became a billionaire.

Anyway she was a huge pioneer and owned a ranch with two runways that hosted some legendary parties with some legends of aviation. The Air Force tried to lowball her on to expand a runway, then when she refused to accept the Air Force accused her of running a brothel, she took it to court in order to depose the Air Force leadership and clear her name and then her ranch mysteriously burned down. She ultimately got just a third over a million for it, but it's hilarious that the Air Force would do that to her when arguably her grandfather was the founder of what would become the Air Force. It's too bad her incredible generosity ultimately left her in poverty.

I'm sure her story is familiar to at least a few of you already, but I only just read about it (edit: I searched right after I posted and the last thread was back in 2010)
PANCHO BARNES (1901 – 1975) Pilot, Proprietor, Partier
 

srn121

Well-Known Member
#5
She's mentioned quite a bit in Tom Wolfe's book The Right Stuff.
Thank you for the heads up. I'll have to give it a read. It's amazing how small of a community aviation can be and all the stories she must have had and people she flew with or knew.
 

RDoug

Well-Known Member
#7
Oh, yeah. Forgot about that. And you're right. Great book.
Thank you for the heads up. I'll have to give it a read. It's amazing how small of a community aviation can be and all the stories she must have had and people she flew with or knew.
Oxman has me thinking it might have been in Yeager . . . or she could be in both books. I'm thinking it's both.
 

A Life Aloft

Well-Known Member
#8
In 1935, Poncho purchased an 80 acre ranch in Muroc, Ca. Over the years she bought more property and expanded the ranch to 368 acres. She expanded the main ranch house and built a swimming pool, restaurant, 2 bars, dance hall, horse and dairy barns, motel and a landing strip. Thus was born the Happy Bottom Riding Club. The first members were Chuck Yeager, Bob Hoover, Jackie Ridley, H.H. "Hap" Arnold, Pete Everest, Al Boyd, Bob Cardenas, and Jimmy Doolittle.

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hook_dupin

Well-Known Member
#9
There’s an annual Pancho Barnes party at her old ranch on Edwards. The Air Force version of her history kindly erases how the AF attempted to imminent domain her property and claimed (falsely) that she ran a house.
 

srn121

Well-Known Member
#10
There’s an annual Pancho Barnes party at her old ranch on Edwards. The Air Force version of her history kindly erases how the AF attempted to imminent domain her property and claimed (falsely) that she ran a house.
How is it? I did some work out in California and was amazed by some of the pilots and the aviation tradition out there. I'll have to read up some more on Santa Paula and Mira Slovak among many, many others.
 

trafficinsight

Well-Known Member
#11
Growing up in that Antelope Valley and riding off road in the desert a lot, we hung out in Cantil quite often there was an old timer who hung around at "Bonk's Jawbone Canyon Store" quite a bit.

Bonk's was the sort of community focal point at Jawbone and Cantil, and He was sort of a permanent fixture there and everyone knew him and called him Mac.

He found out that I was into airplanes and we talked for a bit and he asked me if I knew who Pancho Barnes was. I said yes of course, there was nobody into airplanes who didn't know who Pancho was.

Mac, I found out, had been Pancho's husband.

I'm very lucky to have met several aviation legends in my time growing up out there.


Sent from my Moto Z (2) using Tapatalk
 

Low&Slow

Ancora imparo
#12
If you have Amazon Prime, you can watch "The Legend of Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom Riding Club" for free on Prime Video.

 
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