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« Resources for Our Retirement Flightplan | Main | Life after the cockpit »

An Aviation Legend, Mrs. Evelyn Johnson

I hope that some of you saw the article in the USA Today edition of Friday, November 9, 2007 on the third page of the first section.  The article was about an amazing lady named Evelyn Johnson.  Mrs. Johnson has long been a legend in Tennessee aviation circles, and now this article has brought her nationwide attention.  Mrs. Johnson is currently 98 years young and is still managing the Morristown Airport in Morristown, Tennessee.  She has more verifiable flight time, 56,000+ hours, than anyone save for one 84 year old gentleman in Alabama.  She lost part of a leg in a car accident a couple of years ago and had to give up flying for the present, but says that as soon a she learns how to get the prosthesis into the cockpit, she will be back in the air.  She has given more the 9,000 checkrides during her career, and I was the fortunate recipient of one of those checkrides back in early 1972 when I went up for my private pilot's certificate.  She was at the time over 62 years of age, ancient by my standards then, and the terminal building at the Morristown airport had already been named in her honor.  I remember the check ride as being very thorough with a great deal of time spent on the ground while I convinced her that I knew how to plan a VFR (visual flight rules) flight plan.  The ride lasted about an hour, and the only surprise was the amount of time she made me spend under the hood simulating instrument flight.  She has influenced the lives of a great many fliers, and I am ever grateful that she saw fit to pass me on that day some 36 years ago.  I recently spoke with Mrs. Johnson to congratulate her on her career and to thank her again for all that she has meant to aviation, and to me personally.  I commented that I might very well retire from flying before she did, and she quickly let me  know that she certainly has no immediate plans to retire.  The term amazing does not to justice to this one-of-a-kind lady.  I wanted to share this with you because Mrs. Johnson's story is certainly an encouragement to me, and it should be to you.  It illustrates how much time we may have left in our retirements, and that we need not limit ourselves as we think about what retirement may hold in store for us.

By the way, that day I flew from little Powell airport in Knoxville, Tennessee where I had received my training through the Air Force ROTC flight instruction program, to Morristown for my appointment with Mrs. Johnson.  Upon my return to Powell, with the ink barely dry on my brand new private pilot's license, my future wife ran out of the FBO building and jumped into the Cessna 150 without my ever shutting off the engine.  Then we went for an airplane ride with her as my first passenger.  Can you even imagine your sweet, innocent, young daughter doing such a thing?  If her father had only known of our wild and reckless behaviour, we both would have been in big trouble.  Fortunately, my wife has proven not nearly so reckless in her later years.

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