Ben Hansen 1918-2012: Air Force veteran who flew for 'Ike' dies at 94
BY TIM STANLEY World Staff Writer
Friday, December 07, 2012
12/07/12 at 5:02 AM
The weather, apparently, did not like Ike. Pilot Ben Hansen would have to find another place for Air Force One to land.
For Hansen's family, who had driven out to Washington National Airport to meet his esteemed passenger, President Dwight Eisenhower, it was bad news.
"Dad had arranged it: It was my mother, our Cub Scout troop, and me, the baby sister, all piled on top of each other in our station wagon," said Hansen's daughter, Patty Carroll.
"We were going to meet the president. But there had been a snowstorm or something and they couldn't land there. Man, were we disappointed."
An Air Force pilot who later became base commander for the Oklahoma Air National Guard in Tulsa, Hansen was working at the Pentagon at the time, where his primary job was to fly the U.S. secretary of defense.
But occasionally he filled in on Air Force One and other special assignments.
Although they missed out on the president, Carroll and her siblings are thrilled to know that their father, who was highly regarded by all the luminaries he flew, was so close to history.
"We didn't fully appreciate it as children," his daughter said. "But it was really an amazing time."
Benjamin Wesley "Ben" Hansen of Sand Springs, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and veteran of World War II, Korea and Vietnam, died Monday. He was 94.
A graveside service, with military honors, is set for 11 a.m. Friday at Fort Gibson National Cemetery. Add'Vantage Funeral Service is in charge of arrangements.
A native of Great Falls, Mont., Hansen attended the University of Maryland before enlisting in the Air Force.
Assigned to the Pentagon from the 1950s through the early 1960s, Hansen was pilot for four secretaries of defense - Charles Wilson, Neil McElroy, Thomas Gates and Robert McNamara - over nine years.
Although Col. William Draper was Eisenhower's principal pilot, Hansen was sometimes called on to help out.
It was during Eisenhower's administration that the call sign "Air Force One," which denotes any plane carrying the president, was introduced.
Hansen also flew then-Vice President Richard Nixon, and was even pilot for the Shah of Iran once when he toured the U.S.
While in Washington, Hansen and his wife attended Christmas parties and other events at the White House.
The family still has some of the invitations and other mementos.
Sadly, one memento is missing, Carroll said: A personal letter that Eisenhower wrote to her on the occasion of her birth.
The letter, which praised her father and his piloting skills and wished her a wonderful life, was misplaced, possibly during one of their many moves.
"I'll never stop looking for it," she said.
After D.C., Hansen was a commander at Hickam Air Force Base in Oahu, Hawaii. In 1965, he was transferred to Tulsa to become commander of the Tulsa Air National Guard base.
Later, he was transferred to Bakersfield, Calif.
After nearly 30 years, and having flown around the world three different times, he retired from the Air Force in 1972.
"But he loved flying so much, he couldn't quit," Carroll said, adding that he went in with a partner and bought a small air service in Sacramento, continuing to fly for a few more years.
He settled in the Tulsa area for good in 1978.
One of Hansen's favorite keepsakes is still with the family: a Rolex wristwatch given to him by the Shah.
"He wanted to thank Dad," Carroll said. "He told him he was the best pilot he ever had."
Hansen was preceded in death by his wife of 44 years, Maxine Hansen.
His survivors include his wife of 24 years, Glenda Hansen; five children, Susie Erickson, Judith Haney, David Hansen, Patty Carroll and Kathlyn Lafferty; 12 grandchildren; 22 great-grandchildren; and a brother, Clarence Hansen.
Original Print Headline: Pilot of multiple wars flew for President Eisenhower
Tim Stanley 918-581-8385
Ben Hansen: An Air Force lieutenant colonel who became base commander for the Oklahoma Air National Guard in Tulsa, Hansen previously was assigned to the Pentagon, where his primary job was to fly the U.S. secretary of defense. But occasionally he filled in on Air Force One and other special assignments