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Johnny Airtime — United States
Johnny Airtime (Roger Wells) has proven again and again that he is among the top ramp-to-ramp motorcycle jumpers in the world. Johnny Airtime was raised the son of an Air Force fighter pilot. While his father was stationed in Germany, eight year old Johnny Airtime spent time in the library, and there he found a book about a motorcycle jumper. His destiny was born.
At fourteen he finally convinced his parents that he was serious. After routinely destroying the world record ramp-to-ramp jump on bicycles (45'), his parents, Roger and Lorene, tentatively bought Johnny his first motorcycle. Three months later he began racing motocross. At sixteen, he turned pro after earning the #1 position in points in the 250 Expert class in the Las Vegas Motocross Club. He raced motocross professionally across the country and overseas, winning state, regional (Grand National Championship of the Southern Region, 250 Expert), national (Philippine National Championship) and international (Asia 500cc Championship) titles.
The heart of Johnny's background is in motocross. The tighter and more technical, the better. The rougher, the better. The hotter, or colder, the better. Motocross is his first love, but through it all, he had full intentions of jumping motorcycles ramp-to-ramp.
Johnny was in the Air Force for four years. During that time, he won awards such as "Airman of the Year", promotions below the zone, and numerous other accolades. He rewrote the entire motorcycle safety program at Dyess AFB and became the Chief of Motorcycle Safety, instructing motorcycle safety instructors and everyone stationed at the base. He won the West Texas Series too.
Jumping at Ascot Speedway in Gardena California in 1988. Photo Credit: John of CycleJumpers
Train jump photos are by the world's greatest stunt photographer: Jeff Werner / Incredible Features
In 1984, he performed his first ramp-to-ramp jump on a Honda CR250 in Abilene, Texas, leaping 100 feet over an 18 wheeler lengthwise. 3,000 jumps later, he found himself on a two hour live television special called "Live! The World's Greatest Stunts". Johnny Airtime rode a modified Honda CR500 motorcycle 80 miles per hour down the railroad tracks in a head-on collision course with a three car passenger train 180 feet long and 17 feet high. His launching ramp was right between the railroad tracks. Half a second after he got airborne, the train destroyed the launching ramp and Johnny landed safely 180 feet later on a landing ramp beyond the far end of the train. Johnny Airtime's world famous train jump earned him the "Stunt of the Year" award.
Six months later, however, he found himself face-to-face with the most challenging jump of his life on "The World's Greatest Stunts III". Two 18 wheelers traveled down the highway, one closely following the other. The truck in front pushed the landing ramp down the highway. The truck following closely behind pulled the launching ramp behind it. Johnny's task was to catch them from behind, ride up the moving launching ramp, and jump the two 18 wheelers end-to-end as they traveled down the highway away from him. He conquered his greatest foe.
In 1999, he was called again to perform on "Stuntmasters". Johnny Airtime traveled down the road in San Bernardino, California on his Honda CR500 motorcycle alongside a 20 foot box van at 55 miles per hour. He hit a launching ramp which was in the road. While he was twenty feet in the air, Greg Brickman, driving the truck, performed an S-turn, drove underneath the airborne jumper, and Johnny landed 120 feet later in the bull's eye of the target painted on the breakaway roof.
Then "The Ultimate Challenge" gave Johnny another shot at an incredible jump. Johnny Airtime jumped his motorcycle over the spinning blades of four helicopters to set a new world record in perfect form.
In September of 1999, Johnny jumped again on "Guinness World Records: Primetime" to beat his own world record for the biggest transfer. He rode his Honda CR500 alongside a 20 foot box van at 60 mph. He accelerated away from the front bumper of the box van and hit a launch ramp. When he left the launch ramp, he was 15 feet ahead of the truck. Rick Seaman, the driver, maintained 60 mph throughout the maneuver and turned left around the launch ramp, then right, and passed the airborne jumper underneath. Johnny Airtime landed on the roof of the box van 135 feet out.
Johnny jumped 120 feet rooftop-to-rooftop, seven stories above the ground, from the Mint Hotel & Casino to the Horseshoe Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Johnny Airtime has executed 4,350 ramp-to-ramp jumps over 100 feet during his career. His six week motocross racing schools have produced professional motocrossers who have won state, national and world titles. Today Roger Wells has retired from cycle jumping and is now living in Arkansas.
Ascot Speedway Jump in Gardena, California — 1988
Back in 1966, Evel Knievel came to the legendary Ascot Speedway and made one of his first professional solo jumps. Evel successfully cleared 16 cars. Since then other jumpers came to Ascot to break his record. In 1975, Ken Mackow shattered Evel's record by jumping 17 cars. In the late 1980's Earnie Adams came one night and gave the crowd a thrill. Earnie jumped 16 cars and then 17. To finish it off, Earnie added one more to make it 18 cars.
Of course Earnie's record didn't stand long. A few months later, Johnny Airtime came to town to show everyone "what time" it was. During this period of Johnny's jumping career, he wore a blue satin matador outfit with gold trim. And that night at Ascot, he probably felt like a matador facing a bull. It was a tough crowd and Johnny knew it. It was going to be hard to win them over. Johnny first jumped 17 cars to break Evel's record. He then jumped 18 cars. The crowd was warming up to him. Johnny then added one more car to make it 19. He cleared the cars and the crowd went wild.
Ascot Speedway Jump Photos: John of CycleJumpers 1998
Barenaked Ladies Video — "One Week" 1998
Johnny did the stunt work for a Barenaked Ladies video too in 1998.
Building-to-Building Jump in Las Vegas, Nevada — 1988
In 1988, Johnny teamed up with Joe Reed and they billed themselves as The Guardian and The Bandit. They launched themselves from a seven story parking structure and landed 120' later on top of a six story building. No safety ramp or landing ramp was used! Upon landing, they had to crash into a net to keep themselves from falling off the landing structure. The jump was billed as "Super Jump II" and was on the Guinness Book of Records television program. The gap between the two buildings was 90'.
Here's a description of the jump in Johnny's own words.
"I was doing a bodybuilding workout at that time and weighed 210 pounds. I was on a stock CR500, brand new, which was painted white to go along with Joe's Bandit/Guardian concept. When I landed, the front hub blew up into six pieces and 30 spokes out of 36 broke. The front wheel immediately tried to turn left, even before the suspension could rebound from fully bottoming. I strained against the force of the wheel trying to turn left, trying to keep the throttle shut off against the left-turning bars. I knew it would be idiotic to try to hit the front brake, so I only used the rear. It was like the front brake was on - the front tire was dragging on both fork legs. The front wheel was turning left with more and more force until, at about 30 mph, the front wheel folded sideways. The bike went into a nose wheelie, and after it nosed up past the balance point, I pushed off the foot pegs and dove over the bars, flipping onto my back - something that the stunt community calls a "header". I slid into the net, staying covered, and the bike clipped me in the back, but no damage. I got up with no injuries except a little pinch from my chest protector which was no big deal at all. After that, I finally did my longtime dream of having a new front hub machined out of 7075 T-6 solid billet certified aircraft aluminum by Danny Macias. He was a factory mechanic who has a machine shop now. This was before Talon hubs were invented. My hub is much beefier than a Talon hub. I haven't managed to break it yet."