|Evelyn Bryan Johnson|
A few days after Pearl Harbor,
WJ joined the Army Air Corps and left Evelyn to take care of the business.
While looking for a hobby she took her first flight lesson on October 1, 1944.
Johnson soloed on November 8, 1944 in a Piper J3Cub with the minimum 8 hours required before the instructor jumped out leaving the controls to her. She says she’s glad nothing happened because she really didn’t know a lot at the time.
Johnson earned her
private pilot certificate the following June, added a commercial
certificate in 1946 and became a flight instructor in 1947. That
afternoon she instructed her first student. She was later named a
designated FAA examiner in 1952.
She also became one of
the first female helicopter pilots and was involved in the Civil Air
Johnson’s students have
run the gamut, from pilots flying for pleasure to individuals who went
on to become airline executives. She gave Tennessee Senator Howard
Baker his private pilot flight test. Johnson says they were flying a
Beech Debonair and got to the “stall series.” The senator said the
plane wasn’t made for stalls. Johnson told the senator that, if they
didn’t do the stalls, he’d just have to get along without his private
pilot’s license. He did them.
What does it take to be
a good pilot? Johnson says concentration, study, effort and dedication
are the keys.
Johnson doesn’t have a
favorite airplane for primary flight instruction, saying she likes them
all. But she likes Cessna if a student wants good rudder control. She
worries that students can get into trouble if they have not been trained
in a plane with good rudder control.
Known as Mama Bird,
Johnson sees problems with today’s “check rides”. She says the
instructors don’t teach students how to read a map. Other problems are
radio navigation and stalls. Some instructors are afraid to have their
students get the experience of stalling a plane.
Johnson isn’t shy about
offering advice to today’s flight instructors, saying, “A lot of them
are just doing it to build time, but if you really enjoy instructing,
stick with it. You’ll never get rich, but you’ll have a lot of fun
while earning a living.”
to general aviation go beyond flying and flight instruction. She owned
a fixed-base operation, Morristown Flying Service – for 33 years. And
recently she celebrated 54 years of service at Moore-Murrell Field in
Johnson served on the
Tennessee Aeronautics Commission for 18 years and was chairman for 4 of
those years. She helped allocate state and FAA block grant funds for
airport improvement projects throughout the state.
For 19 years, Johnson
was a Cessna dealer, so she flew and sold just about everything Cessna
made. She owned many airplanes, ranging from an Aeronca Champ to the
Super Cruiser, but adds she was often too busy with her flight school to
fly her own planes.
From 1951 through 1954,
and again in 1960, Johnson enjoyed participating in Powder Puff
Derbies. It was 1955 B.C. – before Castro, she says. She flew in an
international women’s air race from Washington to Havana, Cuba.
She has stacks of
scrapbooks and three dozen or so plaques and awards. She was the FAA’s
Flight Instructor of the Year in 1979. She has been inducted into the
Women in Aviation Pioneers Hall of Fame, the National Flight Instructors
Hall of Fame, the Kentucky and Tennessee Aviation Halls of Fame.
Johnson is most proud of a small plaque that marks her 1997 induction
into the Hamblen County Woman Hall of Fame in Morristown. She says the
organization chooses inductees who make good role models for girls.
In 55 years of flying, she’s logged close to 57,635 and ¼ hours. That’s equivalent to almost seven years aloft.
If you ask her when she
plans to retire, she’ll tell you “When I get old enough. I’m only 97
For her personal dedication to flight instruction and her promotion of general aviation, Evelyn Bryan Johnson has earned her place in the National Aviation Hall of Fame.
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