Edward Albert Johnson (1885-1949) was born in Newport, RI in January of 1885. He developed an interest in aeronautics and spent May-October, 1915, at the Curtiss school in Buffalo. He first soloed in 1915 and received Pilot License No. 32. He joined the Curtiss Aeroplane Company and became its representative in England.
After the US joined the war he became a civilian instructor operating at various airfields around the country. He finished out the war as a test pilot at McCook Field in Ohio. In 1918 Al helped to lay out the first air mail routes, and was one of the group of pilots who flew that momentous opening day mail route from New York to Chicago.
In late 1919, he founded the Johnson Airplane & Supply Company in Dayton, Ohio. He sold aircraft parts and manufactured three planes that he helped design. By 1921 he was operating a flying service, carrying passengers and making air mail deliveries. He also taught aspiring pilots to fly. He was a prime mover in promoting the growth of commercial aviation in Dayton, which started in 1921 with a small, 70-acre flying field that was moved to a 320-acre site in Vandalia in 1928 that has grown into the 4,500-acre James M. Cox Dayton International Airport.
The combination of a destructive hangar fire, the great Depression, and the 1934 government takeover of air mail service spelled the doom for his company. Nevertheless, Al Johnson was a true pioneer of aviation who did not quit commercial flying until 1937 after 22 years in the air. He was a charter member of the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences and The Early Birds. In World War II he served in a technical capacity at Wright-Patterson field. He died July 14, 1949, in an auto accident in San Diego.
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