John H. Livingston

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John H. Livingston
Born(1897-11-30)November 30, 1897
DiedJune 30, 1974(1974-06-30) (aged 76–77)
Resting placeGreenwood Cemetery, Cedar Falls, Iowa
Alma materLincoln High (1 year)
Known forAir racing
RelativesAden "Bite" Livingston
WACO 10 Taperwing ASO flown by Livingston in 1928 Air Derby

John H. Livingston (1897–1974) was an American aviator and air race pilot of the 1920s and 1930s. Livingston placed first in 80 national air races.


John Livingston was born in 1897 in Cedar Falls, Iowa. His first profession was as an automobile and motorcycle mechanic. Livingston first soloed an aircraft in 1920 and started work with The Iowa Airplane Company, later purchasing and managing it as Midwest Airways Corporation. Iowa's first airline with service starting in 1928.[1][2]

In 1928 Livingston won first place in the Transcontinental Air Derby, flying a Waco 10T from New York to Los Angeles.

A Monocoupe 110

In 1930, Livingston purchased a Monocoupe 110 (NC-501W) to use in air racing. Livingston modified the landing gear, engine cowling, engine output, streamlined struts. In 1932 the aircraft went back to the factory to have the wings clipped from 32 feet to 22 feet in length becoming a Monocoupe 110 Special. Livingston would fly the aircraft through rain storms with whitewash paint to find areas of drag. His modifications increased the speed of the monocoupe from 160 to 200 mph. Out of 65 races entered, Livingston placed first 41 times in this aircraft. Livingston sold his aircraft in 1933, and it was entered in the MacRobertson Race flying from England to India where it dropped out.[3] The rebuilt airplane returned to America, killing its next owner Ruth Barron in a 1936 Omaha, Nebraska crash.[4] Livingston's first Monocoupe racer was restored over ten years between 1996 and 2006 and is still flying.[5][6]

By 1933, Livingston had won more air races than any other pilot. After losing to a pilot flying a Cessna CR-2 racer, Livingston commissioned an even faster Cessna CR-3 racer. His aircraft only lasted 61 days before Livingston had to bail out of the aircraft over Ohio. In that time he won every race he entered with the aircraft. After the season, he went to work for WACO as a test pilot, and was also sponsored in the Baby Ruth Aerobatic Team featuring aircraft tied together with ropes.[7]

In 1939, Livingston returned to air racing in a Monocoupe.

Livingston managed Chapman Airport in Iowa with his brother throughout the 1930s into World War II. He managed a cadet training program with over 1500 students completing basic training.

Livingston retired at Pompano Beach, Florida.

Livingston suffered a heart attack and died shortly after test flying a Pitts Special at the age of 76. Livingston was inducted into the Iowa aviation Hall of Fame in 1995.

His Waco taperwing has been donated to the EAA AirVenture Museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin where it has been restored.[8]


In popular culture[edit]

John Livingston is considered to be the inspiration and namesake for the 1970 novel and 1973 film Jonathan Livingston Seagull by author and pilot Richard Bach.[12]


Livingston-Betsworth Field, as well as the fixed-based operator at the Waterloo, Iowa municipal airport, are named in his honor.


  1. ^ Sport Aviation. July 1958. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. ^ "Aviators and Heroes in Greenwood Cemetary". Retrieved 10 May 2011.
  3. ^ Sport Aviation. August 1958. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ RUTH WELLS BARRON Davis-Monthan Airfield Field Register, accessed 28 March 2021
  5. ^ "Restored John Livingston plane, displays coming to airport". Retrieved 10 May 2011.
  6. ^ Vintage Airplane. May 1995. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. ^ Dennis Hoffman. "Winged Passion Iowa Aviation Legends". The Iowan.
  8. ^ "Air Racer John Livingston's Waco Restored to Its 1928 Livery". Archived from the original on 16 December 2011. Retrieved 2 August 2011.
  9. ^ "Fog Hampers Derby Flyers Thru State". The Daily Times. Sep 8, 1928.
  10. ^ "Salute Mail Pilot for Sportsmanship at Air Races". The Lewiston Daily Sun. 4 September 1931.
  11. ^ The Milwaukee Sentinel. 9 January 1939. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  12. ^ "Our History". Archived from the original on 3 January 2010. Retrieved 10 May 2011.