Born July 23, 1934 in Lafayette, Georgia, James Howard “Jim” Rhyne developed a passion for aviation at a young age, owning a Piper J-3 Cub at 15. Earning his student license at 16, he accumulated over 25,000 hours in both conventional and experimental aircraft to encompass gliders, aerobatic, STOL, helicopters, military, and commercial jets and transports. As an intrepid aviator whose love of country never wavered, his aviation prowess remains legendary. Jim served in the United States Air Force from 1954-1958, flying F-84s and F-100s in Albany, Georgia for Strategic and Tactical Air Commands. In 1958, he transitioned to the Air Force Reserve serving with the 128th Air Transport Squadron, 116th AT Wing of the Georgia Air National Guard flying F-86Ls and AC-97s. Jim was hired in 1960 by Howard “Bo” Callaway to manage Gardens Aviation in Pine Mountain, Georgia. Always desiring to fly overseas, in 1962 he took a job in the Orient with Air America for which he flew fixed-wing operations in Laos and Thailand until 1974. During his employment, Jim flew escort for helicopters, relief for USAID, search and rescue missions, dropped sensors and supplies to surveillance teams, provided instruction, currency, and oversaw training host nation pilots. He would also be instrumental in developing instituting, and managing an aerial photo reconnaissance program to complement the Air Force effort in Southeast Asia. While involved in a critical mission over Laos, his aircraft came under hostile fire. As a result of that fire, he sustained injuries to his right leg resulting in amputation below the knee. Through perseverance, within four months Jim passed an FAA medical flight check having mastered the use of a new prosthetic limb. After an additional two months, he returned to Air America on full flight status. Having progressed to Manager of Flight Crews-Laos Division and Chief Pilot at Ventiane, he piloted the last flight out of Udorn, Thailand closing one of the most remarkable chapters of aviation history. Stateside, Jim began his own private charter company providing critical aviation services to customers worldwide. He continued taming an array of aircraft including Blanik gliders, Hughes MD-500 helicopters, Mooney, Gulfstream Vs, DC-35, Pitts Specials, and Twin Otters. Retiring in 1994, he flew for pleasure while rekindling a passion for fishing until his death in 2001. His life exemplified the motto of Air America: “Anything, Anytime, Anywhere – Professionally”.
In recognition of his distinguished contributions to aviation and his country, James H. Rhyne was enshrined on April 09, 2011 into the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame.