Gone West – CA Johnathan Benton
It is with profound sadness that I write this message to our APA family. CA Johnathan Benton, longtime APA Government Affairs Committee Chair and a tireless pilots' advocate, was killed yesterday in an aircraft accident at the far too young age of 53. He was one of two people on a Piper that crashed shortly after taking off from Wiley Post Airport in Bethany, Oklahoma. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the accident.
He is survived by his wife, Bridget, and their children, Johnathan II (Nathan), age 15, and Ashlynn, age 14. Johnathan's family was truly the light of his life. Volunteers with our Sudden Grief Response Program are en route to Oklahoma to support his family.
A veteran of the United States Air Force, Johnathan spent more than 750 days deployed in support of conflicts in Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. He was hired by American Airlines in 2000.
As a member of the Government Affairs Committee for the past decade, Johnathan was a force to be reckoned with on Capitol Hill and beyond. He was equally comfortable in the halls of Congress debating the issues that affect our profession as he was sitting with a group of pilots swapping stories and sharing a few laughs. Johnathan took great pride in the work that he and his fellow committee members did in Washington, D.C., and in the support and encouragement that they received from the membership in the pursuit of our collective goals. He frequently emphasized the importance of having a presence on Capitol Hill, often observing that "if you're not at the table, you might be on the menu." And when Johnathan was at the table, everyone wanted to sit next to him. His influence and expertise were not only recognized within APA, but by those in Washington, D.C. For three straight years, Johnathan was named one of the top lobbyists there by The Hill. The influential publication said the honorees on its 2022 list “all demonstrated a track record of success in the halls of Congress and the administration during a critical year for policy.”
Then-FO Johnathan Benton was among a contingent that welcomed Rep. Pete Sessions and his son to APA headquarters in 2018.
When Johnathan briefed the APA Board of Directors on the union’s legislative priorities last spring, he touched on a variety of topics – establishing secondary barriers to flight decks, enhancing maintenance standards at overseas stations, and preventing foreign carriers from using flags of convenience. In typical Johnathan fashion regarding flags of convenience, he said, “We’re going to fight until hell freezes over, and then we’re going to fight on the ice.”
If you ever had the privilege of spending time with Johnathan, you were immediately struck by his sunny disposition, wry smile, and genuine warmth. He would never miss an opportunity to talk about his family or ask about yours. We will miss his laughter and his Oklahoma twang, and his steadfast commitment to bettering his fellow pilots' lives. We will carry on in his memory and we will never forget him as a friend and colleague.
As you can imagine, Johnathan touched the lives of many of his fellow pilots and APA staffers and this news has hit them hard. We have made all appropriate resources available to all members of the APA family and to the Benton family as we deal with his passing. As we mourn Johnathan, we ask for your patience and understanding, as we have encouraged everyone to take the time they need to process this terrible loss.
FO Brian Bell, FO Todd Wissing, and CA Johnathan Benton