Jill Tallman

Happy birthday, Mama Bird!

November 2, 2009 by Jill W. Tallman, Associate Editor

i’ll be in Florida all this week, scurrying around AOPA Summit, but I can’t let Nov. 4 slip by without wishing many happy returns to Evelyn “Mama Bird” Johnson, who turns 100. Johnson’s incredible career as a flight instructor and designated pilot examiner are detailed in Mike Collins’ article; he also profiled her for the November 1999 AOPA Pilot. Then and now, Mama Bird retains one of the fattest logbooks you’re likely to come across. Her 57,635.4 flight hours make her the highest-time female pilot and the highest-time living pilot in the Guiness Book of World Records.

I have just one “Mama Bird” story: Johnson was a featured speaker at a Women in Aviation conference several years ago. In a soft Southern accent–she was born in Kentucky and lives in Tennessee–she recalled just how she came to be a pilot. Her husband was serving in the military during World War II. Left on her own, she was looking for an activity to fill her quiet days. Should she try tennis? Golf? She saw an advertisement that read, “Learn to Fly” and said, “I believe I’ll do that.” What began as a whim became a career that influenced thousands of pilots. Happy birthday, Mama Bird!

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One Response to “Happy birthday, Mama Bird!”

  1. Nancy White Says:

    You should check with the FAA about Velta Benn, a former WASP who was still doing check rides out of Mannases, Virginia up until last year. She is 92 and I believe she has more hours than Evelyn Johnson.

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