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Evelyn “Mama Bird” Johnson, Record Breaking Pilot, Passes Away At 102
by Jill Pantozzi | 4:00 pm, May 12th, 2012
Above is a photo taken by the United States Air Force in 1957 of Evelyn Bryan Johnson at the Knoxville McGhee Tyson Airport. Johnson, who went by the nickname “Mama Bird,” held the record for the most hours in the air by a female pilot. She passed away this week at the age of 102. Read on for this amazing lady’s story.
“Johnson was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 2007 after flying for 55 years and spending the equivalent of seven years in the air,” writes Philly.com. “She was estimated to have flown 5.5 million miles — equal to 23 trips to the moon — and never had a crash despite her share of mechanical troubles in the sky.”
Mama Bird began flying back in 1944, ran her own flying service, and manage a small-town airport. “She held the Guinness Book of World Records certificate for most hours in the air for a female pilot. She was also one of the first female helicopter pilots,” they wrote.
Back in 2005, Johnson told the Associated Press, “I don’t care how many problems you have down on the ground, you forget about them while flying.”
“At 95, she was still managing the airport she had run since 1953, where she had taught more than 3,000 student pilots and certified more than 9,000 pilots for the Federal Aviation Administration,” according to Philly.com. “She is said to have logged more flight hours, trained more pilots and given more Federal Aviation Administration exams than any other pilot on the planet,” according to Knox News.
She and her first husband William Jennings Bryan intended on starting a dry-cleaning business but “When World War II came, Bryan hoped to learn how to fly in the service. He landed at an air base in Florida in charge of laundry. ‘He started in to fly but ended up washing clothes. I was washing clothes and ended up flying,’ Johnson said in 2005.”
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