I am a pilot today, because my father and I shared a mutual love of aviation. My father let me tag along with him to the airport, when he he was taking flight training. Later on, he encouraged me and allowed me to take flying lessons myself. Sharing a common passion with your father is an unimaginable gift, and when it becomes something you do together, it deepens that relationship. It is this passion for aviation, and the joy of helping others achieve their dreams that drives me to teach as a flight instructor.
My dad’s passion for aviation emerged, while growing up during World War II. Dad was intrigued by all of the amazing aircraft being flown by the allied air forces during the war. I remember Dad telling me that he used to make balsa models of of some of those aircraft (the P-51 Mustang, F-4 Hellcat, and the B-25) which were some of his favorites. His love of all things aviation never subsided even when he stopped flying. Eventually my father would re-connect with that passion once again, but much later on in life.
in the late 1950’s, my father took his first few flying lessons when we was in his 20-30’s. Dad never made his first solo flight during that time, and eventually stopped flying for reasons he never shared. Not until the 1980’s (30 years later) did he return to aviation as a hobby. When he did return to aviation, I remember riding down to the airport in Morristown Tennessee where he re-started taking flying lessons. Morristown Airport was about 30 miles away from our home, and at first I never understood why we would drive so far away to fly at this little airport, because there was a perfectly good airport in our own hometown. On that first trip to the airport together, when I met my father’s flight instructor, I knew right away why he made that long trek each week to learn to fly.
My father’s flight instructor, and later mine as well, was Evelyn Bryan Johnson. Evelyn was a petite (a little over 5 feet tall), fiery, confident, 70 year old. Back in those days, she was not the typical (dark sunglasses, silk scarf, leather jacket clad) pilot that we read about in books, and see portrayed in movies. Evelyn Bryan Johnson, even at the age of 70 was an active, engaging, and spit-fired aviation legend. In this little rural town in East Tennessee, we had living, working, and flying among us a legendary flight instructor and pilot, and you know what, she was my Dad’s flight instructor (and later mine). This wonderful teacher of flight would have a positive influence on my life, in ways that would go way beyond merely teaching me “stick and rudder” skills.
In my next post, I will share more about those early days of flying with Evelyn and my Dad. These were special days when aviation was so unspoiled, when “stick and rudder,” “flying by the seat of your pants,” and the basic skills of maneuvering your craft among the lofty heights was so deeply embedded in this sport. Please check back for my next blog post.