Hall of Fame

Kytle, Johnny S.

Kytle, Johnny S.


In 1927, he returned to Georgia and dusted cotton from the air, flying for the Southern Dusting Co, St. Joseph, Louisiana. He then joined Doug Davis, of Atlanta, and flew a WACO-9 advertising Babe Ruth candy. He was hired by the Pitcairn Aviation Company in September, 1927 along with seven other pilots to fly mail between Atlanta and New York. Johnny Kytle’s job was to fly the main route between Candler Field, Atlanta and Byrd Field, Richmond which began on May 01, 1928. Johnny Kytle made the first northbound departure from Candler Field, Atlanta after the opening ceremonies and arrived in Richmond with the northbound mail that transferred to another pilot who carried it to Washington D.C., Philadelphia, and New York. The southbound mail was transferred to Kytle who returned to Greensboro, Spartanburg and Atlanta thus inaugurating the first flight of Contract Mail Route 19, service between New York and Atlanta Georgia.

During the first week of this air mail service flying from Atlanta he flew into fog and Stone Mountain and wrecked his aircraft. He was slightly injured and managed to recover the mail and get it to Atlanta. A few months later on another airmail flight he became lost in a heavy rain storm and flew into a mountain near Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Destroying the aircraft, Johnny Kytle again, received only minor injuries but it took, with the mail, over 18 hours to walk out of the wilderness to civilization. Again, flying the mail, in December 1928, during a heavy snowstorm he was forced to emergency land his aircraft in South Boston, Virginia with only a downward positioning flashlight for ground reference to safely land the aircraft.

On September 6, 1929 after missing two refueling stops because of bad weather Johnny was forced to parachute to safety near Richmond, Va in the dark after the aircraft ran out of fuel. He again recovered the mail from the crash site and made his way on to Richmond. While employed by Eastern Air Transport, formerly Pitcairn Aviation Company he flew between 5,000 and 6,000 hours much of it on air mail flights. Johnny Kytle, one of four men who flew the mail between Richmond and Atlanta, had the reputation of being the finest airmail and stunt pilot in the Pitcairn Company.

His love of flying and natural skill allowed him to perform aerobatics with ease and precision, often performing stunts for onlookers as he arrived from a mail run. Johnny Kytle’s short career flying the new Air Mail route from Atlanta helped set the standards that we know today in Air Mail Aviation. His daring flights under very harsh conditions with many life-threatening crashes showed Georgia and the world that his new age of aviation would work. The Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport can thank its very existence on the early efforts of these pilots. Sadly, on February 15, 1931, while performing aerobatics at Candler Field in GEE BEE Sportster the aircraft crashed and Johnny Kytle was killed at the age of 26.

In recognition of his dedicated service to Airmail and love of aerobatics, Johnny S. Kytle was enshrined in the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame on April 26, 2014.

Johnny Kytle was born in Alma, Georgia, on July 29, 1905. He finished school at the Agricultural and Mechanical College in 1923 and worked for a short time in Milwaukee. In 1924, he went to Brooks Field for primary flight training for the Army Air Corps. He later graduated from the Advanced Flight School at Kelly Field, San Antonio, Texas with fellow classmate Charles Lindbergh.

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