In the late 1980s we had moved to a neighborhood with cable television. We just signed up for up for it and were channel surfing to see what was available. One of the sports channels was showing stunt flying and the screen captured an upside down plane snagging a ribbon suspended between two soda bottles sitting on the runway. The announcer then named the pilot: Jimmy Franklin.
Jim Marshall “Jimmy” Franklin was born May 16, 1948 to Oliver Gene “Zip” Franklin and Valerie Jones Franklin. Jimmy grew up on a ranch in the northern part of Lea County. Zip was a crop duster, rancher and sport flyer. Jimmy’s first experience with flying, according to an article, was riding on Zip’s lap while still in diapers as Zip flew between two of their properties. Another family legend has Jimmy sneaking out to have his first solo flight at age twelve. He learned aerobatics while still in high school and bought his first airplane, a 1940 Waco UPF-7, when he was nineteen years old. He used it to begin flying in air shows that same year, 1967.
For the next thirty-eight years, Jimmy flew in air shows and made numerous other film and television appearances, credited and uncredited. His Internet Movie Database (imdb.com) page lists him in “Three Amigos!” and “The Rocketeer” but according to his family, Jimmy’s other credits include “Forever Young,” “Terminal Velocity,” and “Choke Canyon” in addition to numerous television appearances where he was stunt flying.
Jimmy was well known in flying circles, having premiered air show acts, flying with wing walkers, stunt flying, dogfight scenarios, making pickups from riders on motorcycles, portraying characters of his own invention and making one of a kind aircraft modifications, such as adding jet power to one of his Waco airplanes. He was honored with many awards including being named to the ICAS (International Council of Air Shows) Foundation Hall of Fame.
Jimmy and his long time friend and fellow performer Bobby Younkin were both killed in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada on July 10, 2005. He and Bobby had created an act they called Masters of Disaster. This act had quickly become a popular draw at air shows. It was in this configuration that they were flying when their two airplanes collided and both were killed. Jimmy was fifty-seven years old. His memorial service was held several months later in Ruidoso, New Mexico and he is buried in Lincoln County at Ruidoso’s Forest Lawn Cemetery.