Paul Johns spent 66 years in aviation
By Jane Myhra
Paul Johns, of Iola, has received the sincerest honor for an aviator.
He now has an airport named after him.
The Central County Airport, in Ogdensburg, has been renamed Paul Johns Field.
“It is an honorary appointment,” said Bill Kinsman, of Manawa. “The corporate name will not change.”
“This is Central County and it will never change,” said Rocky Maggio, of Waupaca.
According to Kinsman, the honorary name was the idea of fellow pilot Tom Riccio, of Iola.
“Paul Johns has done so much in aviation,” said Riccio. “It is our way to show our appreciation. It is nice to do it while he can still appreciate it.”
Johns, who will be 102 on Oct. 11, was thrilled.
“It is nice to know I have some good friends,” Johns said. “I didn’t know anything about it. They kept it a secret.”
Johns began flying airplanes at age 15. After 66 years in aviation, he voluntarily quit flying at age 85.
Memorabilia of his contributions to aviation have long been on display in the airport’s main hangar.
“He had every rating the FAA gives,” said Kinsman.
Born in 1913 in Indiana, Johns first soloed a Waco glider in 1929 at age 15. He earned advanced pilot and mechanic ratings at Curtiss-Reynolds Field in Glenview, Illinois.
He eventually piloted the Boeing 314, the Flying Boat or Clipper, for Pan American Airways.
In 1939, Pan Am sent him to Florida to set up an instrument training program for Navy pilots.
During World War II, Johns recorded over 220 Pacific crossings for the Naval Transport Service, using celestial navigation.
After WWII, he was a corporate pilot for J.I. Case and then Walker Muffler. Forced to retire from the pilot job at age 60, he became the head of research and development for Walker Muffler.
He engineered, designed and built testing equipment that measured sound waves using laser light.
In 2006, Paul Johns was inducted into the Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame.
“He is one of the youngest at heart and a great tribute to mankind,” said David Lindsay, of Manawa. “The things he has done in his lifetime are just unbelievable.”
At age 75, Johns built a Kitfox homebuilt airplane and flew it until 1995 when he voluntarily grounded himself.
At the age of 90, he went to tech school to learn how to fix computers.
At the age of 96, he engineered, designed and built an antenna for fabric covered airplanes, which many pilots claim is one of the best in the industry.
At 101, Johns has a desktop computer, a laptop and a mini i-Pad. He is on e-mail, Facebook and Linkedin.
He had his auto license renewed last year with no restrictions. His ham radio license is good for another 10 years.
“He is as alert as most 70 year olds,” Lindsay said. “He knows so many people by name. His recall is fabulous.”
“Paul is a great guy,” said Chuck Lukas, of Appleton. “He makes the only antenna that will work in my airplane.”
The Central County Airport, located on County Trunk E north of Ogdensburg, has been in existence since the late 1940s.
The airport is managed by the Central County Flyers, which has over 1,100 members. Many of the members attend the weekly Friday lunches, the main fundraiser for the airport.
Nicknamed “The Busiest Little Airport in Wisconsin,” the Central County Airport is self-sustaining and accepts no federal money.