2018 Arkansas Aviation Historical Society Hall of Fame honoree Harold Johnson of Walnut Ridge presented a program Sunday, April 22 at 2:00 PM at the NEDC Resource Center across from the old Post Office in Newport.

Johnson and his family moved to Walnut Ridge Airbase in 1946, when he was age 10. At that time, the Airbase was the main depot for the destruction of surplus WWII aircraft in the SE United States. At this location, as many as 11,000 aircraft were on site waiting destruction and salvage. Roaming through all these planes, he developed a life long love of airplanes and flying.

He stared flying at age 16 and became a commercial flight instructor in the 1960's. He was then hired as a pilot for Southern Airlines in 1965. It was in this capacity, as a co-pilot on a Southern DC-9 passenger jet, that he and the rest of the crew made front page headlines all over the U.S. In 1972, on a flight out of Birmingham, Alabama, their plane was high-jacked and taken on a 13 hour ordeal, which included 12 fuels stops and 2 trips to Havana, Cuba Airport. Johnson was the only crew-member shot, but his shoulder wound was endured, until their plane was stormed at the Havana, Airport. All passengers and crew were safely returned to the U.S. After retiring as a pilot with Republic Airlines, in 1983, he eventually returned to Walnut Ridge, where he established and is President of the Wings of Honor Museum. This museum has become one of the largest and most complete military museums in the South.