The Society of Experimental Test Pilots has more than 2,300 members in 22 countries.
Presently, a Boeing Chief Pilot for Military Transport and an engineering test pilot, Benjamin has a career spanning 34 years with the U.S. Air Force and Boeing.
Holding 10 Type Ratings and logging more than 9,400 hours in more than 90 different aircraft as an instructor pilot, fighter pilot and experimental test pilot, Benjamin says he is humbled by the opportunity to serve in the Society’s membership.
“I am standing on the shoulders of giants,” he said.
Starting his Air Force career as a T-38 instructor and check pilot, Benjamin then continued as a fighter pilot, flying the F-106 and F-16. After he completed test pilot school at L’Ecole du Personnel Navigant d’Essais et Reception in Istres, France, he then served as both an instructor at the USAF Test Pilot School and as an F-16 experimental test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
“While serving as president I would like to expand the influence of the Society beyond the traditional U.S. military flight test centers at Edwards and [NAS] Patuxent River.”
During the past year as president-elect, he has traveled to almost all of the society’s symposia around the country and around the world.
“There’s a lot of flight test going on in places other than Edwards AFB or Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md.,” he said. “I’d like to have those efforts, many of which are done by people who have not had the opportunity to attend the U.S. Air Force, Naval or National Test Pilot Schools, be recognized, mentored where appropriate, or learned from, especially in these financially-constrained times. The opportunity to learn new techniques to get a program to and through certification, or do something that has never been done before, may come from outside the traditional test centers.”
Two example companies he is looking to target are HondaJet and Cirrus.
“They’re doing exciting stuff – let’s hear about it!”
He would also like to hear about testing and lessons learned from test pilots and engineers working for Bombardier, Cessna, Hawker-Beechcraft, Piper, Bell, American Eurocopter and Sikorsky.
Benjamin said he is the first traditional Boeing (from the Northwest) to become president.
Born at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., his dad was an F-100 pilot while he was a toddler. “I think that is when the flying bug hit me.”
Growing up in La Crosse, Wisc., he counts himself a proud cheese head. “Go Pack Go!”
Benjamin says he followed the career of Joe Engle, who was a squadron mate of his dads’ at George AFB, Calif.
“I remember wearing out the pages of an issue of Air Progress that had an article titled “We Fly the F-104D,” about Capt. Joe Engle taking the reporter on a flight in the F-104D in-between his flights in the X-15.”
To earn his first pilot license at age 18, Benjamin took classes at a glider soaring program in the summer between his third and fourth class years at the Air Force Academy.
“My wife Katherine is my favorite souvenir of the Air Force Academy.”
Happily married for 34 years, they have two children: Gabe an FAA air traffic controller at Brackett Airport in San Dimas, Calif., and Sara an actor in New York City. Sadly, after 35 years they recently lost their buddy Max, the cat.
Benjamin graduated with honors from the U.S. Air Force Academy with a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering and received his Masters of Aeronautical Science degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, as well as a Master’s of Business Administration from the University of Phoenix.
He was recognized as an “Eagle” by the Flight Test Historical Foundation during its 2004 “Gathering of Eagles,” and was retroactively awarded The Society of Experimental Test Pilots Iven C. Kincheloe award in 2007 for his work on the Bird of Prey program where he was the government project pilot and flew 21 of the program’s 38 sorties.