2002 Hall of Fame Inductee-
This article originally appeared in the November 2002 issue of Vintage Airplane magazine
Johnny Miller has lived the century of flight. Early aviation started near his front door, when Glenn Curtiss landed across the street from his father’s farm near Poughkeepsie, New Your, to refuel during his epic Albany to New York flight on May 29, 1910. Four-year-old Johnny became devoted to flying, absorbing everything he could read about early aviation. Here are a few highlights of the accomplishments of VAA’s 2002 Hall of Fame inductee.
- By 1923, 18-year-old Johnny Miller assisted a barnstorming pilot who later gave Miller his first airplane, a decrepit Curtiss Jenny destined for the scrap heap. He rebuilt the Jenny and learned to fly it, often referring to World War I pilot Horatio Barber’s book Aerobatics. After soloing on his 18th birthday, he sold the Jenny and headed off to college at the Pratt Institute for Mechanical Engineering, graduating in June 1927. The month before, he’d skipped school one morning to watch Charles Lindbergh take off from Roosevelt Field on his way to Paris via the North Atlantic.
- With new regulations coming into effect in 1928, pilots and mechanics were being certificated by the Department of Commerce. Johnny took the mechanic’s exam and was issued Aircraft and Engine Certificate No. 2906. Working as a mechanic for the Gates Flying Service, he also rebuilt and flew a variety of aircraft, including this J-1 Standard, which still exists.
- 1932. Miller also flew the New Standard D-25, barnstorming it successfully and profitably. This one is serial number 2 D-25, converted from a D-24 by replacing the Hispano engine with a 225-hp Wright J-5.
- In 1930 he was commissioned as a transport pilot in the Marine Corps Reserve, and he qualified as Naval Aviator No. 4821.
- In 1931, he was the first person to buy the revolutionary Pitcairn autogiro, the PCA-2. With it he became the first to fly a rotary-wing aircraft across the United States, from May 14 through May 28, 1931.
- He was actively involved in autogiro flight, including the test flying of the first wingless autogiro, the Kellett KD-1B, and the Army’s YG-1B.
- His deep involvement in rotary-wing flight continued during the 1930s, including the first true aerobatic demonstrations flown during the 1933 National Air Races. John’s interest culminated in 1939, when he convinced Eastern Airlines (EAL) management to take over operation of the scheduled airmail flights originating from the roof of the Philadelphia Post Office. Ten times each day a trip was flown by John or his backup pilot, John Lukens.
- John continued to fly for EAL until 1963, when he retired with I 22 ,000 hours in his logbook at age 58. He flew the airline’s evolving inventory, from the DC-2 through the Lockheed Constellation and Electra, ending with the jet-age Douglas DC-8.
- It’s a bit big, but he still fits in his Eastern Airlines uniform!
- He’s enjoyed personal aircraft as well, flying his own Taylorcraft, I~ Stinson, and a few Beech Bonanzas. He flew a Beech Baron for more than 30 years. He owns and flies the Beechcraft Bonanza, is still fully qualified as a flight instructor, and maintains his IFR currency. He continues to make annual trips to California to visit his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.