Skip to main content

Kenneth C. Johnston Papers

Identifier: H010-11

Scope and Content

This collection contains thank you letters, commendations, police reports, news clippings, and images related to Kenneth C. Johnston's career with the New York Police Department and Bell Helicopter. The Kenneth C. Johnston Papers are housed in one manuscript box, and one oversize box totaling 3.0 linear ft.

The collection arrived in good condition, and the archivist identified two series of material.

The first series is the General Helicopter Information Series, which contains documents about the helicopter operation training received by Kenneth C. Johnston, his membership in various helicopter organizations, his consulting work on the use of helicopters in law enforcement operations, his career with Bell Helicopter, and his time as manager of Pan Am's Manhattan Heliport in New York City.

The second series is Kenneth C. Johnston's Career with the New York Police Department (NYPD) Series, which includes press clippings about his activities as a street patrol officer, helicopter pilot, and as a Lieutenant in the NYPD Aviation Bureau. It also houses a number of articles, book chapters, and histories discussing the NYPD Aviation Bureau and its operation.


  • 1929 - 2000
  • Majority of material found within 1958 - 1978


Access Restrictions

Materials in this collection are open for research.

Literary Rights Statement

Permission to publish material from this collection in any form, current or future, must be obtained from the Special Collections and Archives Division, Eugene McDermott Library, The University of Texas at Dallas.

Biographical Sketch

Kenneth C. Johnston was born on March 18, 1918 in Brooklyn, New York. Growing up during The Great Depression, he worked a number of odd jobs, and spent time with the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to support his mother. In 1942, Johnston enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps, with the outbreak of World War II, where he volunteered for flight training. Commissioned as a Pilot in 1943, he was assigned to the Army Air Corps Navigation School at Monroe, Louisiana, where he flew training missions with Air Corps Students. In 1945, he resigned his commission, and returned to Brooklyn, where he spent a year studying at The Delahanty Institute on the G.I. Bill.

In 1946, he joined the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and was assigned as a Patrolman to the 13th Precinct, which covers part of mid-town Manhattan. In his career as a patrolman Johnston was cited by the department sixth times for action above and beyond the call of duty, which included such feats as catching a group about to commit a payroll robbery, tracking down the suspects responsible for twenty-two liquor store hold-ups, and assisting in transporting blood needed for an emergency operation. Johnston was also briefly injured in the line of duty when he was clipped by a hit and run driver on a New York street. He also passed the Sergeant and Lieutenant Promotion Exams.

In 1950, Johnston transferred to the New York Police Department Aviation Bureau, in order to get back to flying, as well as claim the monthly stipend offered to officers on Aviation Duty. He flew the department’s fixed wing aircraft for a year, before being checked out on the Bureau’s new Bell 47-G Helicopters. In 1953, Captain Gus Crawford, the Bureau’s leader left the job, and Johnston were made first acting, and then permanent director of the Bureau.

In 1957, the Bureau purchased new Bell-47J model helicopters, and Johnston went to Bell Helicopter to receive flight training and to the Alison Engine Company for mechanical and systems training. While with the Bureau, Johnston participated in several rescues at sea, including the 1958 rescue of a New York Air National Guard pilot who had ditched his aircraft in the waters of Jamaica Bay, New York, and a group of teenagers who had to be rescued from a jetty at Coney Island in 1961. Johnston also flew numerous VIPs around the New York City area such as Admiral Hyman Rickover of the United States Navy, New York State Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller, and New York City Mayor Robert F. Wagner, Jr.

In 1968, Johnston left the Bureau and the New York City Police Department, and joined Bell Helicopter as a consultant on the use of helicopters in law enforcement operations. In 1969, he left Bell and took the job of manager of the East 60th Street Heliport in Manhattan. The heliport was owned by Pan Am, which provided helicopter connections between local area airfields and the New York City areas’ three major airports (John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia International Airport, and Newark Liberty International Airport). In 1974, Johnston went to work for Island Helicopters to develop an aerial sightseeing, tourism program in New York City. In 1979, Johnston retired to Port Lucie, Florida.

As of the date of this finding aid, Kenneth C. Johnston still lives in Florida. His wife Anne, who he married in 1940, passed away in 2008, and he has three children and six grandchildren.


"Kenneth C. Johnston Papers," Offical New York Police Department Comendations, Folder 9, Box 1, Series II, History of Aviation Collection, Special Collections and Archives Division, Eugene McDermott Library, The University of Texas at Dallas.
Aastad, Andy. 2008. "Ken Johnston, Law Enforcement Pioneer." "Rotor Magazine," Spring 2008, pp. 72-74.


3.0 Linear Feet (One manuscript box, one non-standard box (22.5x15.0x3.0).)

Language of Materials


Series Description

The Kenneth C. Johnston Papers are arranged into two series:

Series I. General Helicopter Information 0.5 linear ft. (half a manuscript box), 1958-2000.

Arranged chronologically.

Series II. Kenneth C. Johnston's Career with the New York Police Department (NYPD) 2.5 linear ft. (half a manuscript box and one non-standard box), 1946-1994.

Arranged chronologically.

Provenance Statement

The Kenneth C. Johnston Papers were donated to the History of Aviation Collection, Special Collections and Archives Division, Eugene McDermott Library, The University of Texas at Dallas, by Kenneth C. Johnston in multiple accession from 2011 through 2012.

Additional Sources

The History of Aviation Collection is the official archive of the Twirly Birds organization, and has several collections of material related to helicopters including the John Slattery and William Yarber Papers. There is also information about various models of helicopters and their manufacturers in the Manufacturers Files. The History of Aviation Collection, also possess a number of books, magazines, and journals related to helicopters, and helicopter aviation.

Image ID

It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission from copyright holders of materials to which this institution does not own copyright.

Images in this collection are identified by a unique number that provides information about the format, record group, collection, series, box, folder, and image numbers. Please use this number when ordering reproductions of images from this collection.

Record Group Code

1 = CAT/Air American Archives

2 = Doolittle Archives

3 = Lighter than Air Archives

4 = George H. Williams, Jr., World War I Aviation Library

5 = History of Aviation Archives

6 = University Archives

7 = HAC Stacks

8 = WPRL Stacks

9 = Cecil H. and Ida M. Green Collection

10 = Belsterling Collection

11 = Closed Stacks

12 = Unidentified

13 = Chance Vought Archives

14 = Twirly Birds Archives

Image Format Code

P = Photograph/Postcard

S = Slide

N = Negative

T = Positive Transparency

B = Black and White

C = Color

Example: 5KJ2-1-14-PB1

5 = History of Aviation Archives (HAC)

KJ = Kenneth C. Johnston Papers

2 = Series Number

1 = Box Number

14 = Folder Number

P = Photograph/Postcard

B = Black and White

1 = Image Number

Images archived in plastic image holders may also have a location code in the format: 1/TL. In this example, the number is the sheet number and the letters indicate the top left position on the sheet. Position indicators are T = top, L = left, R = right, M = middle, and B = bottom. Position indicators may be combined to describe the position on the sheet, as shown in this example.

Note to the Researcher

The materials in this collection are in good condition and present no special requirements to the researcher.

Guide to the Kenneth C. Johnston Papers, 1918-
Thomas Allen, PhD
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
English (eng)

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and Archives Division, History of Aviation Archives. Repository

3020 Waterview Pkwy
Suite 11.206
Richardson Texas 75080 US