A career naval aviator, Admiral Roy L. Johnson graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1929 and earned his wings. Following a brief tour with a cruiser scouting squadron, he returned to Pensacola as a flight instructor. As he recalled in his Naval Institute oral history, this was in the mid-1930s, when Rear Admiral Ernest King decided that a number of Navy captains should go through flight training to become more knowledgeable and capable commanding officers of the new carriers entering the fleet.
As instructor, probably the most trouble I had with the students was with the captains. I had Captain Ernest Gunther as a student. He couldn’t even taxi the airplane. Captain John Sidney McCain came out, and I took him out to what we called shoot the circle. You’d go up, climb to 1,500 feet, cut the engine back, glide down, and land inside this 200-foot circle.