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John Paul Riddle


Formerly a barnstormer and flying instructor for stunt pilots, John Paul Riddle was a pioneer in aviation history taking the controls only 17 years after the Wright brothers’ first flight. His career in aviation had taken him from the Embry-Riddle Flying School in 1926, winning the first Federal air mail contracts, to globe-trotting with Howard Hughes and the Prince of Wales.
In 1934 he opened a charter seaplane service in Miami and in WW2 operated three schools in Florida and one in Tennessee for US and UK pilots. His role in setting up the Riddle-McKay Aero College for 5BFTS at Clewiston, Florida, is well documented. His vision, beyond the war, was to set up an Aeronautical College and the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University at Daytona Beach is the fruition of that idea.

Supplementary Biographical Detail:

Born in 1901 at Pikeville, Kentucky, John Paul Riddle attended Pikeville College and graduated in 1920. When he left college he married Adele Goeser.

From 1920-22 he served in the US Army Air Service and was sent to the mechanics’ school at Kelly Feld, San Antonio. From there he went on to Chanute Field, Illinois and then to flying school at Carlstrom Field. His career in aviation next took him to Post Field, Lawton, Oklahoma, where he learned the value of sound aircraft construction. On leaving the USAAS he became a barnstormer. Flying a $250 Jenny he would give rides to passengers for a few dollars across a dozen states.

In 1925 J. P Riddle formed the Embry-Riddle Company at Lunken Airport, Cincinnati with T. Higbee Embry. They had met while J.P.Riddle was barnstorming and had landed in a polo field. Embry was offered a ride and a friendship was formed.

As general manager, Riddle was responsible for selling Waco Aircraft. In 1926 the company opened the Embry-Riddle Flying School. The school’s early pilots were trained for America’s first package express business and in 1927 the school won one of the first Federal air mail contracts. This in turn became part of AVCO, the Aviation Corporation of Delaware, later known as American Airlines. The flying school was a successful venture and the company became known as Embry-Riddle Aviation Corporation.

In 1934, with his partnership with Embry now dissolved, Riddle opened a charter seaplane service in Miami and a new flight school at Miami Municipal Airport.

In 1939 Riddle decided to go into the business of training pilots and, now living in Florida, he teamed up with John G Mackay. Together they re-established the Embry–Riddle School of Aviation and provided training under the Civilian Pilot Training Program. They went on to form the Riddle Aeronautical Institute at Carlstrom Field to train pilots for the USAAC in 1941 and, in a separate division, provided technical training in maintenance and metal work.
With the introduction of training for RAF pilots, owing to the Lend Lease Scheme, Riddle built and set up the 5 British Flying Training School at Clewiston, Florida, named Riddle Field.
In 1944 McKay purchased Riddle’s share of Embry-Riddle and the end of the war, in 1945, brought an end to the BFTS scheme.

In 1939 Riddle had also set up the J.P. Riddle Company which contracted five flying schools to the US and British governments. Consequently a Brazilian flying school was set up in 1943 and in 1945 the company relocated American transport instructors to Brazil. This was operated by Riddle Airlines, an air cargo carrier which operated from Miami.

John Paul Riddle retired in the 1960’s and died on 6th April 1989 at Coral Gables, Florida. He is remembered by a marker along with his RAF cadets at Oak Ridge Cemetery, Arcadia, Florida.



  • Cliff Bjornsen

    Military | Chief Ground School Instructor
    Mr Cliff E Bjornsen was the Chief Ground School Instructor at 5 British Flying Training School in Florida based at Riddle Field. He was a well respected instructor and in April 1943 the Embry-Riddle Flypaper reported, " According to the latest report...

  • David Blackhall

    Military | Pilot
    David Richard Croft Blackhall was from Diseworth, Derbyshire, UK and arrived at No 5 British Flying Training School at Clewiston with the RAF students in 1942 to join Course 13. He shared a room with William Cushner at Riddle Field, Clewiston, while...

  • Peter Brannan

    Military | Corporal
    Peter Brannan was born near London on June 27, 1925. He joined the Air Training Corps at 15 and the RAF at 18 in 1943, and then spent many frustrating months doing training courses and odd jobs on bomber aerodromes. Eventually he “gained freedom” and...

  • John Broome

    Military | Pilot
    John Broome grew up near London. He enlisted with the RAF and was posted to No. 5 British Flying Training School, Riddle Field Clewiston in 1943, Course 18. After he was awarded his Wings, he returned to Britain and did a short spell of flying...

  • Murray Cash

    Military | Captain | Flight Surgeon
    Captain Murray M Cash was one of two flight surgeons at Riddle Field who provided routine medical care in the area and emergency care on the base to both RAF and USAAF personnel. He was a British subject who came from Toronto and he worked well with...

  • William Cushner

    Military | Lieutenant Colonel | Pilot
    Born and raised in Kingston he received an associate degree from Bucknell Junior College. Serving 28 years with the active Air Reserve he had trained as a civilian pilot and, while training with the USAAF, Maxwell Field, Alabama, he was one of 15...

  • Eric Denham

    Military | Flight Lieutenant | Pilot
    Eric was born in Pontefract, Yorkshire, in 1922. His father, Major Stanley Denham, was an army officer with the York and Lancaster Regiment. In 1918 he went missing as he tried to join up in Halifax but was too young and had to return home. As soon as...

  • Jack Hayward

    Military | Flight Lieutenant | Pilot
    Sir Jack Hayward was born in Wolverhampton, UK in 1925 and volunteered for the RAF in 1941. He first trained in Yorkshire. Later he joined 5 BFTS Riddle Field, Clewiston, Florida as a trainee pilot on Course 17. Among many other postings he was...

  • Charles Hopkins

    Military | Link Trainer Instructor
    Charles Jackson Hopkins was born in Chrisney, Indiana, on 21st September 1921. He later moved to Huntingburg, Indiana and graduated from Grade School to High School. On leaving school he was employed as a bookkeeper and then manager of a loan company....

  • Samuel Huston

    Military | Colonel | Pilot
    Born in Ohio, USA, Samuel Huston signed the 5 BFTS Anniversary book for No 5 British Flying Training School at Riddle Field, Clewiston in 1943. In a letter to William Cushner in 1992 he records the following memories: ...

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Units served with

  • 5 British Flying Training School

    5 British Flying Training School

    The 'Arnold Scheme' (1941-43) and the British Flying Training Schools (1941-45), with the co-operation of Squadron Leader Mills DFC and President Roosevelt, enabled the setting up of flight training in the USA for RAF pilots to train alongside American...

Associated Place


Event Location Date


Date Contributor Update
22 June 2016 16:41:07 Anne Hughes Changes to media associations

Embry-Riddle Fly Paper various issues 1943/44

Date Contributor Update
22 June 2016 16:05:09 Anne Hughes Changes to media associations

Embry-Riddle Flypaper

Date Contributor Update
22 June 2016 16:04:27 Anne Hughes Changes to media associations

Embry-Riddle Flypaper

Date Contributor Update
22 June 2016 15:57:42 Anne Hughes Changes to media associations

Embry Riddle Flypaper

Date Contributor Update
22 June 2016 15:31:54 Anne Hughes Changes to biography

RAF Wings over Florida - Will Largent

Date Contributor Update
18 May 2016 15:41:38 Anne Hughes Changes to place associations

Date Contributor Update
27 April 2016 10:24:58 Anne Hughes Changes to media associations

5BFTS Anniversary Book

Date Contributor Update
26 April 2016 14:08:24 Anne Hughes Created entry with surname, middlename, firstname, nationality and biography
RAF Wings over Florida - Will Largent