By Jill W. Tallman, AOPA
The offers began appearing in 2015. Each time a new pilot’s photo appeared on the Flight Training Facebook page, there would be a flurry of comments along the lines of “Congratulations!” and “Great job!”
And then this: “Congratulations and welcome to the 0.001! Send me a [personal message] and I’d be honored to send you a complimentary patch.”
Jim Johnson is the one making the offer to send a free patch to the new pilot. “I’ve actually given away quite a few of them,” he said.
“We make a big deal over the first solo and cutting the T-shirt and taking a picture, but when we actually earn the certificate, they hand you a piece of paper and say, ‘Congratulations.’ It’s anti-climactic. I got the idea to send out a patch.”
Johnson, who lives in Reidsville, North Carolina, orders custom-embroidered patches for private, instrument, and commercial pilots. He sells them on eBay. “It’s just something I do,” he said. He is a registered nurse who works at a kidney dialysis clinic.
Johnson earned a private pilot certificate in 2012. “It was always a childhood dream,” he said. “When I was a little boy, I wanted to be a TWA captain—I was even airline-specific.” His father was an electrical engineer for Grumman Aerospace who worked on the Apollo lunar module program.
“I always had an interest,” Johnson said. “I flew RC airplanes and made too many excuses” about taking flight lessons. “Ultimately I decided that was enough with the excuse-making and I did it.”
A Civil Air Patrol volunteer, Johnson flies to log cross-country time so that he can qualify as a transport mission pilot and, ultimately, as a search-and-rescue/disaster relief mission pilot.