Man to be inducted into Arkansas Aviation Hall of Fame

WALNUT RIDGE, AR (KAIT) - A Walnut Ridge man will be inducted into the Arkansas Aviation Hall of Fame on Nov. 9th.

Harold Johnson is the President of the Wings of Honor Museum and loves planes.

However, his love of aviation is not the only thing people know him for, he also co-piloted a plane that was hi-jacked in 1972.

Southern Airways Flight 49 was hi-jacked by three men for around 30 hours and Johnson almost lost his life during the incident.

"One of the hi-jackers came forward and stood up against the bulk head and said Harold why did you do it, said stand up I'm going to kill you," he said.

Johnson said the hi-jacking took place while the plane was stopped in Birmingham.

The hi-jackers made several demands while on the plane.

"He said they wanted ten million dollars and ten parachutes and ten bullet proof vests and so, and they wanted to go to Detroit," said Johnson.

For more than a day the plane took the men all across the United States, to Cuba and even Algeria after being unable to land in Detroit.

Eventually the plane stopped in Florida where the tires were shot out and the men threatened to kill Johnson.

"Had just this fleeting momentary thought or vision of my dad and my daughter and my wife, I knew it was over," he said.

However, it wasn't over for Johnson who dodged gunfire.

Johnson was shot in the right arm, but his life was spared when the captain told hi-jackers he couldn't fly without a co-pilot.

He said after the hi-jacking he felt he had a second chance to live his life.

"It's so good to be alive," he said.  "Every morning when you wake up it's good to see the sunlight or the clouds."

Johnson will be honored next week in Little Rock, just one day before the 45th anniversary of the flight's hi-jacking.

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