Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Johnnie Martin on early O.C. aviation

The Eddie Martin Airport - predecessor to Orange County/John Wayne Airport - is seen in the photo above in the 1930s. It was located just north of the current airport, off Main Street. The inset photo shows Johnnie Martin in 1924. While Eddie is the best remembered of the Martin brothers, both Johnnie and Floyd Martin also played important roles in the development of local aviation, Martin Aviation, and the airfield that eventually evolved into today’s John Wayne Airport.
I recently stumbled across the transcripts of a 1971 interview with John Wesley “Johnnie” Martin, Jr. (1898-1977), and I’m posting a few interesting excerpts here.

“Well, this all goes back a long, long time, to 1919. [T.C.] “Tinny” Peterson and Jack Colvin got together enough money to buy a J1 Standard. They bought it on time and flew it to Santa Ana. They were flying it out of a field on the end of West 4th St…

“Eddie, being the rich one in the family, gave Peterson $100 and he was going to teach Eddie to fly. He took five hours flight instruction from him. Tinny Peterson had been a WWI pilot and I considered him, at that time, to be one of the finest pilots we had known. Eddie was ready to solo in three hours, but they couldn’t solo anyone, as their plane was on a contract. However, it wasn’t long before their plane cracked up due to high wind. This happened up north somewhere and meant a temporary end to flying in Orange County…

“Two years later, in 1921, Eddie and I started a flight school… That was aviation’s second start in Orange County…

“When a student came out to take up flying, the first thing we did was sit them down and talk to him for a while, then try to sell him a helmet and goggles. If he had enough money to buy them, we would then tell him how great he looked in them, then send him on his way to tell his girlfriend he was flying. And that guy would rob a bank in order to keep on flying. We had to have a gimmick, but it worked out well. That’s the reason we have a Martin Aviation today.”

You can tell these guys sold cars when they weren't flying, can't you?
Much of the rest of the interview is recounted in Vi Smith’s book, From Jennies to Jets: An Aviation History of Orange County.


Viewliner Ltd. said...

Having lived just half a block from the end of the runway from 1957 on and watching OC airport expand year by year, makes this picture of Eddie's Airport just more remarkable. Thanks Chris

CoxPilot said...

Was Eddie's Airport located North of Newport Blvd, or South of it? And was it North or South of where Broadway connects to Main? Didn't Main St. end at Newport, and then McArthur Blvd begin (before the big curve around the longer runway)? I grew up in South Santa Ana and should know these things, but it's been a long time.