Your Stories: Mama Bird Evelyn Johnson

2:48 PM, Nov 24, 2010   |    comments
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Evelyn Johnson

A little lady right here in East Tennessee is a legend in the world of flying and a Guinness world record holder.

Her nickname? Mama Bird.

Evelyn Johnson takes each turn with ease and zips through the air like it's where she belongs. She flew until she was 96 years old. Now she is 101 and is still kicking and reflecting on times gone by.

"So many people say, 'Had you always wanted to learn to fly?' No. Never thought about it," says Johnson.

But she did think about it after her husband went to war and she was left to tend to their dry cleaning business in Jefferson City on her own.

"It was getting tiresome. I had been doing it about two and a half years by that time and I thought if I had a hobby and could get out of here about an hour or so a week, maybe it wouldn't be so bad," says Johnson.

And that hobby became her true passion in life by accident.

"I sat down on the couch, picked up the paper and on the bottom of the front page...there was one (an advertisement) on there and it said, 'learn to fly' and I said 'Well, that's for me. That's what I'll do. I'll learn to fly,'" says Johnson.

So, she made it happen. "I took my first flying lesson in a Piper Cub. It was love at first flight and that was about 60 some odd years ago and it still is. I love to fly," says Johnson.

Next up, getting her license. "Well, I took a flight test, of course everybody does, and I passed. That's the main thing," says Johnson.

And she kept going and going and going. "In 1946 I got my commercial pilot's license. In 1947 I got my flight instructor rating," says Johnson. "I just kept on adding on every time I had the chance."

Soon, Evelyn became a beloved flight instructor to thousands in Morristown at the airport she partly owned. One of her most memorable students, legendary Senator Howard Baker. He had to test with Evelyn to get his license.

"He said, 'This airplane just doesn't do stalls.' I said, 'Mr. Baker that airplane don't know that it don't know how to do stalls. And it'll get into a stall and you won't know how to get out of it. No stalls, no private license.'"

And to this day she still has an office and the title of manager at the Morristown Airport.

"I'm still working out here five days a week. Yes, indeed," says Johnson.

She also holds another distinction. "I have 57,685 and 4/10 hours of flying time," says Johnson. That is the most for any woman and any living person in the world according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

She's had quite a life and she's not stopping anytime soon. "I'm going to retire as soon as I'm old enough. I am only 101," says Johnson.

Evelyn Johnson, a passion for flying, a passion for life who as she puts it still has things she wants to do.

One of "Your Stories". There's no place like this one.

Evelyn also had two husbands who both died of cancer and one of her students wrote a book about her. The list goes on and on.










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