Alfred F. Johnson Jr. was born and bred a potato farmer. He started life in 1933 on Long Island, N.Y., where he learned to fly at a young age. In 1952 his family moved to Magnolia, Del. Al's job was operating ground sprayers on the Johnson-Anderson potato farm.
Al's passion for flying led him to explore ways to use his wings to improve production and economics of farming. Exhibit A: Crop-dusting had been restricted to calm early morning and evening hours, severely limiting the availability of aerial application. So instead of dusting, Al began spraying potato crops with liquid mixes. This opened new windows for aerial application, and it revolutionized the farming business.
In the early 1960s, Al's "Air Enterprises," based at Magnolia, spread its wings to cover sweet corn. Success of the operation led to adoption of aerial spraying by all the sweet corn processors on the Delmarva Peninsula.
Al was also known for his fire-fighting prowess with wings. Over the years, he put his airplanes to work fighting forest and marshland fires.
He has also been called to head up leading agricultural aviation organizations. In 1968, he was elected president of the Northeast Aerial Applicators Association; in 1974 he was named president of the National Agricultural Aviation Association.
In his 56 years of flying, Al has accumulated more than 30,000 hours, mostly below powerline level. His first airplane, a 1941 Boeing Stearman bi-plane, resides in the Delaware Agricultural Museum in Dover. He donated his 1939-vintage Stearman to the Air Mobility Command Museum on the Dover Air Force Base where, in 1995, Al served as honorary commander.
In 1997, at the request of the Smithsonian Museum, he displayed an AgCat on the Washington Mall as part of an exhibit on the evolution of agriculture in America.