Mildred Benson: Toledo Queen of Private Aviation by Michael Marotta

Everyone at Toledo’s Suburban Airport knows Mildred Benson. She learned to fly there, back when it was called Wagonwheel. For years, she wrote the “Happy Landings” column of the Toledo Blade. Ten years ago, she gave up her Cherokee 180. Her last flight in the left seat was in 1996. Now she writes a column called “On the Go” targeted to senior citizens. “You can’t run the mill with water that’s gone over the dam,” she says. “You have to enjoy the day.”

Ms. Benson went to work for the Toledo Blade in 1944. She covered city government and the courts. She worked the news desk and then moved to features. Going on vacations gave her the opportunity to meet bush pilots and fly on the right in single engine craft. She speaks with awe about approaching the ruins of Chichen Itza from the air decades before it was a sojourn for tourists from Cancun. “Learning to fly was sort of accidental. I was sent to the airport for a story and they had this $5 promotion going. That $5 promotion cost me hundred and hundreds of dollars.”

“I tried a lot of planes,” she said about earning her wings. “I flew a Tri-Pacer, a Cherokee 140 and a Mustang. I’ve done most of my flying in and out of small airports. Small airports are the lifeblood of aviation.” Typical of her carpe diem attitude, she admits that she didn’t keep track of her hours after 1200.

She thinks that flying was more fun and more rewarding ten or 15 years ago. She takes a dim view of training on a personal computer. She allows that commercial pilots have a need for simulators. “It all helps,” she said, “but I don’t think that computer training will takes the place of hands on. Especially at the lower level, you can’t get too much instruction.”

She also says that while Global Position Systems are important and useful, they “cut some of the adventure out of aviation. I always used to get lost in the mountains.” That sense of adventure, coupled with her writing skills, made her a perfect choice to write several Nancy Drew books, which always appear under the name Carolyn Keene.

Michael E. Marotta
Technical Writer