Jan Johnson, a self-described caretaker of a 1952 LC-126C (the military variant of the C-195) living in the Silicon Valley of California, says the enthusiastic technological and emotional support of the International Cessna 195 Club were invaluable when she decided the iconic round engine Cessna was her aircraft of choice.
In February 2009, a life-long interest in aviation that included a stint as a flight attendant led Johnson to take an introductory flight in a Cessna 172 at Palo Alto Airport (KPAO). She was hooked, and immersed herself in the world of aviation, attending airshows and fly ins. By October of that year she earned her private pilot’s license. Like most low-time pilots, Johnson scratched the aviation itch with rental airplanes, then in June 2012 she decided she’d like to become an aircraft owner.
“I was at a new job, settling in and toying with the idea of buying an airplane,” she says. “Everyone I talked to told me it was the stupidest idea, saying ‘you don’t need an airplane’ and ‘it’s cheaper to rent!'” she recalls.
But Johnson was determined.
“Perhaps they were all correct, but I still wanted an airplane of my own — not one that someone had flown before me and left food wrappers in, or left the right main tire low of air, or failed to squawk the low oleo strut on the left main landing gear. I’m the kind of girl who, when someone tells me that I can’t or shouldn’t do something, I become more motivated. So, I started my search.”
There were certain criteria, she notes. The airplane had to be large enough to accommodate her and Peter, her husband of more than 30 years, as both are over 6 feet tall, and there had to be room for their bicycles.
The Cessna 195/LC-126C made the most sense, she notes. She’d seen a few at airshows and had even had the opportunity to fly one.
“It has room for five adults, a big radial engine — which I loved — no wing struts, and with style and charisma that was unrivaled, in my opinion,” she says. “I think I’d found the airplane for me. Was I crazy? Yes, perhaps. Did I mention that I never discussed any of this with my husband? I knew he would say the same thing that all the pilots told me: ‘You’re crazy!’ But the 195 made the most sense — to me, at least. Room for gear, and guaranteed to empty any FBO or airport diner you taxi up to.”
“When I first learned of the Cessna 195, I wasted no time in finding the International Cessna 190/195 Club and becoming a member,” she continues. “Nights and weekends were spent reading past newsletters, studying the hundreds of photographs of members’ planes, and pouring through all the posts in their famous Hangar Talk section — where members post questions, problems, and insights on the proper care and feeding of a Cessna 195. No matter the experience level of the person asking the question, a minimum of three replies would appear within hours of posting the question — usually within an hour! The depth and breadth of knowledge about these amazing airplanes was impressive.
“I looked on the Cessna 195 website and saw that a 195 expert named Jeff Pearson was on the West Coast. He knew a great deal about the 195,” she recalls.
Johnson was able to hitch ride with Oliver Coolidge, another C-195 owner from San Carlos Airport to Oshkosh for AirVenture in 2012 and that was where she met the 195 family in person.
“There were 30 Cessna 195s there, in all colors and configurations,” she recalls. “Soon after returning to California, I was on the phone with Jeff again, telling him all the airplanes I saw and all the people I’d met. The LC 126C model was what I wanted, after seeing a perfect specimen at Oshkosh.”
“I think in my previous life I must have been a warbird pilot, because the thought of flying a piece of history was exciting to me. A vintage piston-powered trainer or fighter was what I dreamed of owning. But that was not realistic. I liked a number of airplanes, including the Italian SIAI Marchetti, Beech T-34 Mentor, Scottish Aviation Bulldog, the Navion, and the North American AT-6 Texan. But I knew nothing about them. I learned to fly in a Piper Warrior and a Cessna 172, and knew that neither of those planes were what I wanted to own. I got my tailwheel endorsement in a Citabria 7ECA, and loved flying it, but fitting two adults and two bicycles in a Citabria was out.”
Johnson learned of an LC 126C for sale in central California. She was able to meet with the owner in August 2012 and fly the airplane around the pattern at the airport. By September, she made an offer on the aircraft and flew it home in October.
“She was all mine. It was such an easy decision to make. I’d already been welcomed into the 195 family, after attending the Columbia Fly-In in Northern California’s Gold Country, and meeting many of the 195 club members at AirVenture that summer. The 195 owners I spoke with were supportive and encouraging, so I knew I would always have someone to call if there was ever a problem. Without the amazing network of 195 owners and pilots, mechanics, airframe specialists, and restorers, I would not be flying a 195 today.”
Johnson’s airplane, named “Elsie,” resides in a hangar at San Jose-Mineta Airport (KSJC), and is exercised on a regular basis.
Johnson also gives a nod to her husband Peter saying, “Although he is not a pilot…yet, he loves the Cessna 195 as much as me.”
Johnson, has approximately 600 hours total time, including 300 in tailwheel-equipped aircraft. Her next project is finding out more about the personal history of her airplane.
“I was able to trace my airplane’s current serial number back to its original military serial number. Through my contact with Sharon Brown, the widow of Cessna’s chief test pilot Mort Brown, I was able to narrow down the date, within a day or two, of when my airplane rolled off the assembly line and was test flown for the first time. I found a photo of my airplane online, as it looked when it was delivered to the U.S. Army in early 1952. It was most likely taken by a Cessna photographer who was flying in formation.
“My next step is to acquire the military flight records for my airplane,” she continues. “Elsie flew over 2,200 hours while in the U.S. Army, most likely used for light utility and transport. Her huge baggage compartment can accommodate two stretchers. The military used them to retrieve injured personnel in remote locations. My airplane was civilianized in late 1959 and sold to a small flying service in Pennsylvania. Over the years and all the previous owners, she moved to New Jersey, Florida, Texas, Colorado, and ultimately California, where she’s spent the last 30 years.”
Johnson also makes time to participate in the 195 social events.
“The highlight for any Cessna 195 owner, besides the week-long love-fest at Oshkosh each July, is the annual 195 Convention and Fly-In, held in a different city each year. This year it will be held in Chino, Calif. I’ve attended two so far — in Frankfort, Kentucky, and Tupelo, Mississippi. A maintenance seminar allows the 195 experts to demonstrate routine repairs and problem areas of the Jacobs radial engine and the fuselage. A couple of fly-outs to local attractions are planned, and there’s plenty of time for hangar-flying with old friends.”