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James L. Mynning

James L. Mynning

1930-

Capt. James L. Mynning was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1930 and has been a lifelong Michigan resident. As a teenager, he would purchase production aircraft, land in an open field next to his parents' home, disassemble the aircraft and then modify it for an air show look and performance.

Mynning first soloed on July 16, 1946 in an Aeronca 7AC Champion, and would go on to play an important role in developing the air show circuit in the 1950s. During that time, he provided narration for fellow performers and then became a full-time announcer at major and minor air shows in North America, serving as master of ceremonies for the entire event.

In addition to announcing, Mynning performed numerous renowned air show acts. As demand for lying acts grew, he found himself sought after as an airshow pilot. He developed five unique acts, performed using a Piper J-3 or Piper Super Cub. One of his acts included a car to plane transfer, where he would fly in close and pluck a stunt man from the hood of a speeding car via a rope ladder. During another act, Mynning would attempt to land his Cub on a platform built atop a pickup truck, sometimes known as "The World's Smallest Airport." His attempts were-almost always-successful.

From 1955 until 1990, Mynning was an airline pilot and captain with Capital Airlines. In 1960 Capital Airlines merged with United Airlines, and in 1974 Mynning was named United Airlines Pilot of the Year for safely landing a 737 with a dangling engine without injury to passengers or crew. He beat out 5,000 other United Airlines pilots.

Mynning was also the co-owner of three airports in Michigan-Young Field in Ann Arbor, a farm airfield in Chelsea, and Meyers-Diver's Airport in Tecumseh. All three airports were the home of members of an airshow group known as the Ann Arbor Air Force. In addition to being the headquarters to the renowned members of the group, the airports were also the sites of many air shows.

In 2003 Mynning was inducted into the International Council of Air Shows Foundation Hall of Fame. He has more than 35,000 hours of flying experience and continues to contribute to the history of air shows. He is currently chairman of air show operations at Experimental Aircraft Association's annual convention in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, the world's largest aviation celebration. He was inducted into the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame on May 21, 2011.

Smithsonian Institution Affiliations Program