Local News

Robeson Airman Remembered As Dedicated Pilot, Historian

Posted October 22, 2003

— A pilot with North Carolina ties died last weekend after a plane crash in Texas. Bill Johnson's friends remember him as a dedicated pilot and historian.

Johnson, 62, of Parkton, had performed at an air show near Houston on Saturday. The show ended hours earlier when he went up with several other planes for a photo opportunity. He was about to land when something went wrong.

"The photo shoot was over. Everyone came in to land and while he was landing, the aircraft went into the ground. We don't know why," said John Bogart, Johnson's friend.

J.T. Cotner belongs to the Commemmorative Air Force, a group that restores and flies World War II planes. He said Johnson was part of the group.

"Loops, rolls, spins -- you name it. He did it," Cotner said. "He loved it. That's what he did."

"He would get out here with rags and he would wipe all the oil off the airplane and he'd make the airplane shine because he was proud of it," Bogart said.

The group calls itself the Ghost Squadron and said Johnson epitomized its spirit.

"People who fly know that those things happen, but nevertheless, it does not make it any easier if you know the person well that it's happened to," Bogart said.

"It's a pretty tough time for all of us," Cotner said.

Johnson is survived by his wife.

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