Viewing page 5 of 10


Early Curtiss Pilot - Instructor

James M. Johnson was born at Helena, Arkansas, July 19, 1885. He attended a private school at Helena and later public school at Oberlin, Ohio, and graduated with a B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering at Purdue University in 1907.

He became interested in aviation and entered the Curtiss Flying School at North Island, San Diego, California, in late 1914, and after completing the course became an instructor at the school, remaining there until late spring of 1916. On February 23, 1916, Johnson became a member of the Aero Club of America, and while at North Island he obtained F.A.I  . Pilot License No. 329 on June 23, 1915. 

In 1916 Johnson was transferred to the Curtiss School at Newport News, Virginia, where he remained as an instructor until June, 1917. He was one of those who taught then-Major "Billy" Mitchell to fly. While there Johnson obtained Aero Club of America Expert Aviator License No. 178 on March 21, 1917.

In June, 1917, Johnson became a civilian test pilot for the United States government at Langley Field, Hampton, Virginia, and was there until October, 1917, when he was transferred to McCook Field, Dayton, Ohio, where he served as a civilian test pilot until April, 1921. 

At that time Johnson became associated with the Johnson Airplane & Supply Company, Dayton, Ohio, as Vice-President and test pilot. This concern had been started by another ex-Curtiss pilot, E. A. "Al" Johnson, to deal in government surplus planes, engines and aviation equipment, rebuild and repair, conduct a flying school, carrying passengers, and do commercial flying. A flying field and buildings had been established near Dayton, and although the two men were not related they proceeded to build up a very substantial business.

In 1922 they founded the Johnson Flying Service to manage and promote the flying part of the business. They initiated weekend and holiday passenger carrying flights which became so popular that they added another ex-Curtiss pilot, Walter Lees, to 
Please note that the language and terminology used in this collection reflects the context and culture of the time of its creation, and may include culturally sensitive information. As an historical document, its contents may be at odds with contemporary views and terminology. The information within this collection does not reflect the views of the Smithsonian Institution, but is available in its original form to facilitate research. For questions or comments regarding sensitive content, access, and use related to this collection, please contact