´Mama Bird´ to be honored for contribution to aviation
With 57,635.4 hours of flight time, Evelyn Bryan Johnson, often called "Mama Bird," has logged more hours than any other woman. But it´s for her many contributions to aviation as a pilot, flight instructor, FAA-designated pilot examiner, FBO owner, and airport manager that this longtime AOPA member will be honored.
Johnson, who joined AOPA in 1947, will be presented with the Katherine and Marjorie Stinson Award from the National Aeronautic Association ( http://www.naa.aero ) on Oct. 29. The award is named for the Stinson sisters who were among the first 11 American women certified as pilots by the NAA´s predecessor, the Aero Club of America.
Earlier this year, Johnson was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame.
"I had no idea of accomplishing anything except a hobby," Johnson says of her intent to learn to fly.
When she reflects on her achievements, she can come up with an entire list of things she never thought she´d do: own an FBO for 29 years, manage an airport for 54 years, race in the Powder Puff Derby five times, compete in an international air race, or be inducted into six halls of fame.
And she never thought she´d live to see a building named after her. "I thought you had to be dead," she said, laughing. The airport terminal building at Moore-Murrell Field in her hometown of Morristown, Tenn., is named after her.
Johnson, who turns 98 on Nov. 4, flew regularly until a few years ago. She lost her medical because of glaucoma but still went along for a ride with other pilots. Then, in September 2006, she was injured in a car accident, and her left leg had to be amputated. She´s wearing a prosthetic now and is back working at Moore-Murrell Field where she was manager for more than 50 years.
However, she has only gone flying once since her car accident. That was in a King Air 350 on her way to be inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in Ohio.
It´s the longest time Johnson has gone without flying since she began learning in 1944—previously she had taken only two to three weeks off when battling pneumonia. She plans to get back in the air as a passenger again as soon as she´s sure she can get in and out of the airplane.
So what prompted this dedicated aviator to pursue flying? A small ad on the front page of her Sunday newspaper: "It simply said, ´Learn to fly.´"
The way she pursued her flight training typifies her dedication: Exactly one week after she read the ad, she traveled by car, train, bus, and boat to reach her first flying lesson.
By Alyssa J. Miller