Kathleen Hanser tells the colourful story of American aviatrix Pancho Barnes , who broke air speed records flew in Hollywood films and was the toast of all the top test pilots


The alwaysexuberant Pancho Barnes in typically manly clothing and her trademark beret.
Her purchase of the Travel Air Mystery Ship aircraft made Pancho the envy of many.

Pancho Barnes adhered to the profile of a ‘man’s man’ in every way but one – she was a woman. She smoked cigars, always wore trousers, preferred hanging out with men, swore like a sailor, drank with the best of them, craved adventure and feared nothing. Born Florence Leontine Lowe in 1901, Pancho gew up in southern California, USA. Her grandfather, Thaddeus S C Lowe – who created President Lincoln’s Union Army Balloon Corps during the American Civil War, and was later known as the father of US military aerial reconnaissance – took her to one of the country’s first airshows when she was a child. He told Florence that everyone would be flying aeroplanes when she grew up and that she would be a flier, too. It turned out he was right, and in a big way.

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