Johnathan Benton, the Allied Pilots Association’s longtime top advocate in the nation’s capital, died in a plane crash on Monday, according to the pilots union. He was 53 years old.
Benton was one of two people onboard a Piper PA-32 aircraft that crashed shortly after taking off from a regional airport in Bethany, Okla. The other victim was identified by authorities as John Hazelton.
“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,” the Allied Pilots Association wrote in a release.
Benton was chairman of government affairs at the Allied Pilots Association, which represents American Airlines pilots, where he pushed for stronger federal safety rules and an end to flags of convenience. He was named to The Hill’s “Top Lobbyists” list for three consecutive years from 2020 to 2022.
“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,” the Allied Pilots Association wrote.
Benton joined American Airlines as a pilot in 2000. Prior to that, he was an Air Force pilot who spent more than 750 days deployed in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the accident, according to the pilots union.
Benton’s funeral mass is scheduled for 12 p.m. on Jan. 28 at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Mustang, Okla.