Born in North Dakota, Johnson came to Crookston, MN in 1948. Trained as an electrician in the US Army, he worked on helicopters in Korea. Johnson received his Private license in 1988 and began soaring. He owned two sailplanes and built a Pietenpol homebuilt aircraft. Johnson is not only a mentor for contemporaries, helping them with every facet of aircraft home-building, but he has studied and become adept at such diverse skills as propeller making, powder coat painting, machine-shop tool operation, ice boating, and home construction. He has been a lead member of the construction crews for the Air Guard Jenny, the Centennial Wright Flyer replica and the Waco CG-4A glider restoration.