According to the University of Houston, he persisted despite the rejection until one day a former army pilot who ran a flight school in Des Moines agreed to train him. He learned how to fly planes at Raymond Fisher’s Flying Field in Des Moines.
He was the first Black aviator to be granted a license by the United States Department of Commerce. From 1922 to 1928, Banning ran the J.H. Banning Auto Repair shop in Ames while pursuing his passion.
Despite being a chief pilot at Iowa, he went to the Bessie Coleman Aero Club in Los Angeles to improve his flying skills. During his time in the Midwest, he was assigned the role of a demonstration pilot flying a biplane named Miss Ames.
Banning made history in 1932 when he flew across America from Los Angeles to Long Island, New York, with the help of another Black pilot named Thomas C. Allen. They rebuilt the engine and added new magnetos and valves from a Nash automobile to the plane they used for this expedition out of junkyard parts. They flew 3,300 miles in 41 hours and 27 minutes over the course of 21 days.
Due to a lack of funds, they had to halt operations on a regular basis to raise funds for gas and oil. For this historic occasion, they flew an orange and black Alexander Eaglerock biplane. They were known as The Flying Hoboes. Banning was motivated to fly cross-country because he believed that freedom in the sky would translate into freedom on the ground. He completed the journey in less than 42 hours after 21 days, which was a remarkable time frame at the time given the challenges he faced.