When he's not practicing law at Gilbert Harrell Sumerford & Martin in Brunswick, Mark Johnson can often be found up in the air flying his single-engine Piper Saratoga. The six-seat airplane is perfect for Johnson, as he and his wife have four children.
Johnson, 51, earned his pilot's license more than 14 years ago, just two weeks before the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. "I had just gotten my license and they shut down air space for several days," he recalled. "It was weird."
A 1990 law school graduate from the University of Georgia, Johnson flies for both business and pleasure. He has flown to some "random places" with his family and once flew a friend to Atlanta for heart surgery.
What made you become a pilot?
I had some friends who were pilots and had flown with them some. Living down here [in Brunswick], it's far away from everywhere. I got tired of driving to Atlanta. That led me to look into it and I got my license.
What do you like best about being a pilot?
It shrinks the state and the whole Southeast. I can leave my house at 9 a.m. and be downtown in Atlanta at 11 a.m.
What airports do you use in Atlanta?
I primarily use DeKalb-Peachtree and Charlie Brown [Fulton County Airport].
How often do you fly?
I probably fly 100 hours a year, probably 8 to 10 times a year. There are certain requirements that I have to meet to stay eligible. I fly for business and personal use.
Where do you keep your airplane?
St. Simons Island has a pretty busy airport. I primarily keep it there. A lot of flying goes on around here. I travel around. Brunswick has a really good airport, too.
Where did you buy your airplane? How expensive was it?
I bought it from a dealer in Florida. It was like buying a really nice car.
You are an IFR rated private pilot. What does that mean?
It stands for Instrument Flight Rules. It means if there is limited visibility coming into an airport that I am qualified to fly with just an instrument approach.
Where is the farthest that you have flown?
Durango, Colorado, with my family.
Where do you fly with your family?
We have flown to Colorado in the summer. We fly commercial in the winter. Don't want to get caught in a winter storm and get grounded for two or three days.
Where is the most interesting place that you have flown?
I've flown with the family to some places we would have never gone to if we didn't have a plane. We flew to Amarillo, Texas. There is a crazy little zoo there.
We flew to Dodge City, Kansas. It literally looks like an old western town. We flew to Beatrice, Nebraska, and visited the National Homestead Museum. We've taken the kids to some random places. They love to make fun at us about it now.
What are the worse conditions that you have flown in?
I have flown through rain and wind. But I try to avoid flying through storms. It's uncomfortable when the weather is bad. The weather is the determining factor on whether to even fly at all.
This fall has been bad for flying. A lot of storms, low ceilings, heavy winds. I drive more than I used to.
Where else have you flown?
Alabama, Kentucky, the Carolinas, Florida. My oldest son played travel soccer and my youngest son played golf so sometimes I would fly them to their games and tournaments.
What's it like to fly in good weather?
That's really nice. It's relaxing, a nice diversion. It's nice to focus on something else for a while. It's beautiful down here, up the coastline toward Savannah, and coming back I fly over Jekyll Island or Cumberland.
Do you have other hobbies besides aviation?
I play golf. I'm a 10 or 12 handicap.
Have you ever flown to play golf?
I have flown to places to play golf. There are so many great courses in Georgia and the Southeast.
What kind of law do you practice?
I do mostly corporate litigation and some governmental affairs work.
Story and photo: http://www.dailyreportonline.com