With more than 30,000 hours in the cockpit, Johnson is easily the most experienced pilot on Delmarva. He reached that milestone without spending a single minute in uniform and today, at age 76, he still flies almost every day from his farm/airport near Magnolia, DE.
In2008, he was honored by the DAHF for his pioneering work in crop spraying, a procedure that replaced crop dusting as the primary means of fighting insects and agricultural diseases. His work was such that he also was recognized in 2004 with a Career Distinguished Service Award from the Vegetable Growers Association of Delaware.
Johnson’s love of flying grew from watching Grumman pilots test new aircraft over his father’s Long Island potato fields. He started flight school there, using $150 he’d earning while working over the summer. He took to the air almost as if he were born there, making his first solo flight in only 10 days.
The family moved to Delaware in 1952, but Johnson eventually gave up farming – “I had other motives. I wanted to fly.” – and started doing agricultural flying in 1958. He founded his company, Air Enterprises, the following year. He then extended his interests nationally, becoming president of the Northeast Aerial Applicators Association in 1968 and president of the national body in 1974.
People have asked him when he plans to retire, and Johnson answers with a simple, “Why?”
“Why not continue doing what I like to do?” he asked. “I have to have a reason to get up and do something every day. Why not continue doing what I love? It’s an extension of my life.”