Florence Lowe, later to be called "Pancho" Barnes, was born on July 14, 1901 in Pasadena, California. She was a woman who not only set some records in aviation endurance, but was also an accomplished stunt flyer. Her stunt flying helped her star in a movie or two. She also built a ranch for off-duty pilots near an air force base in the Mojave Desert in California. She was the granddaughter of Thaddeus Lowe, who had established the balloon corps for the Army of the Potomac during the American Civil War. This allowed her to grow up in a pretty wealthy atmosphere.
At the age of 18, Florence married a man named C. Rankin Barnes; therefore, she gained the last name Barnes. She gave birth to a son a few years later, but she felt that she was better suited to be a clergyman's wife, so she left husband and son for a time in 1928. During this marital hiatus, she traveled to Mexico by a freighter and then went out into the Mexican countryside for four months. While on this adventure she wore men's clothing and she also got the nickname "Pancho" which she kept for life. She returned home later that year.
Shortly after her return home, she bought a Traveler biplane and hired a flight instructor. After only 6 hours of instruction, she made her first solo flight. She put a great deal of effort in to becoming an expert pilot. In August 1929, Pancho Barnes participated in her first Women's Air Derby which was a cross country race from Santa Monica, California, to Cleveland, Ohio. She was forced to withdraw after colliding with a truck on a runway. That didn't stop her from trying again in the same race the following year. This time, she set a new world record average speed for women of 196.19 miles per hour.
In 1929, Barnes became the first woman stunt pilot in the motion picture industry, performing air stunts for Howard Hughes's film, Hell's Angels. A little while later, Pancho Barnes started a company that would provide stunt fliers to film studios.
In 1930 Barnes became the first woman to fly from Los Angeles to Mexico City. The next year she organized another cross country race for women pilots. She, along with other pilots, helped to organize a group of aviators to assist in emergency disasters. In the early years of the Great Depression, Barnes, along with her son, bought a Ranch in Southern California in 1933. She later expanded her ranch into a resort. In the 1950s, Barnes ranch was destroyed by a fire. Pancho Barnes passed away in Boron California in 1975.