06 January 2007

Pancho's Flight into Mexico

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In February of 1930, just about 76 years ago (!) Florence "Pancho" Barnes flew from Los Angeles to Mexico City. While other aviatrixes had flown into Mexico — Matilde Moisant made exhibition flights there in the 1910s — Pancho was apparently the first to fly long distance into the interior. The reason for the flight was to pioneer an air route for Pickwick Airways. Pickwick, incidentally, had been formed just a year priot in 1929 and aviatrixes Bobbi Trout and Ruth Elder were on hand for opening ceremonies at Grand Central Airport!

Pancho flew her trust Travel Air Speedwing biplane on the long-distance flight. She was accompanied by a student flyer, Mariano Samaniego who acted as her interpreter and probably took the stick on occasion. The flight was leisurely, and according to biographer Lauren Kessler, Pancho flew for only three or four hours a day over the course of five days with stops in Tucson, Arizona, Nogales, Mazatlan, and Guadalajara.

Considering the fact that Mexico at the time had few airports, and given the fact that navigational aides in those days were primitive at best, Pancho's flight was an impressive achivement. Even more impressive was the reception Pancho apparently received in Mexico City, where she was feted by members of the Mexican Air Force and government. A great website which includes more information about Pancho's flight into Mexico can be found:

here.