Delta pilots flew to 48 states in under 48 hours to raise money for veterans
Capt. Barry Behnfeldt is an Airbus A350 pilot for Delta Airlines and has been with the company for 24 years. He also served 30 years in the Navy, 17 of which were spent flying F-18s. With the goal of inspiring the next generation of aviators and raising money for a veterans organization, Behnfeldt set out to set a world record by flying to 48 states in under 48 hours.
Behnfeldt was inspired by another Delta pilot who attempted to set the record in 2021. In order to succeed, he enlisted the help of fellow Delta pilot Capt. Aaron Wilson. The two men, who both graduated from the Bowling Green State University School of Aviation, flew in a six-seat 1980 PA32R Piper Saratoga. They were joined by Thomas Twiddy, their in-flight technician with whom Behnfeldt served in the Navy.
The race against the clock around the country attracted attention and allowed Behnfeldt to encourage donations to the Veterans Airlift Command. VAC provides free, private air transportation to combat-injured veterans for medical or other compassionate purposes. To set the record, the trio had to land at a public airport in all 48 contiguous U.S. states and receive the proper signatures to prove they were there. The time started when the plane left the ground in Ohio and ended upon landing in the last state.
On June 4, 2023, at 2229 hours, Behnfeldt, Wilson and Twiddy took off from Henry County Airport with a sendoff from friends, family and local supporters. "The outpouring of people from our local community was incredible and so humbling," Behnfeldt told Delta News Hub. "I couldn’t believe the number of people who came out. I hadn’t seen that many people at the Henry County Airport in a long time."
Thanks to extensive planning, the record-attempting men had an efficient flight plan. A support team back at Henry County Airport monitored weather and made sure that every destination airport was properly staffed so that the trio would spend as little time on the ground as possible. Landing at Wayne Municipal Airport, Nevada, the crew was greeted by an illuminated number 48 on the side of the hangar. "It was so cool to see," Behnfeldt said. "Those kinds of things happened all along the route, and it added to the motivation and kept the mission exciting."
In Georgia, Behnfeldt decided to stop at one of the busiest airports in the world: Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International. The Saratoga pulled in under the wing of a Delta A321 where the team was greeted by Delta Chief of Operations John Laughter and other Delta employees. "Some people asked me why I would fly into one of the busiest airports when setting a Guinness World Record," Behnfeldt said. "Yes, it took extra time, but to be in Atlanta with the Delta family under an A321 wing was well worth it."
In Maryland, the trio was greeted by Adam Kisielewski, a combat-wounded veteran and member of the VAC advisory board, who brought the men sub sandwiches. "I was blown away by Adam’s generosity and kindness," Behnfeldt said. "He’s a young man who lost his left arm and leg in combat while serving our country, and we were honored to be there with him." As of June 24, Behnfeldt helped raise $30,048 for VAC.
After 44 hours and 7 minutes, the Saratoga landed at Portland International Jetport; the final stop. Although the Guinness World Record still has to be verified, Behnfeldt, Wilson and Twiddy certainly accomplished their missions of inspiring future aviators and raising money for veterans.