BENTON, Aaron Douglas
Flight Lieutenant, Royal New Zealand Air Force

New Zealand Distinguished Service Decoration
Queen's Birthday Honours List 2012
Squadron Leader Benton (then in the rank of flight lieutenant) was serving with No 5 Squadron in September 2010, when a request
was received to prepare an aircraft for a winter aero-medical evacuation from Antarctica. As an experienced P-3K Orion instructor
pilot, he was called on to undertake this mission. The patient, an American working at McMurdo Station, was seriously ill and in
need of specialist medical care. The Orion left Christchurch to begin the mission on Sunday 12 September, with weather conditions
expected to deteriorate approximately four hours after the aircraft’s scheduled departure from Antarctica.  However over the space
of 15 minutes during the flight south, separate observations showed increasingly blizzard like conditions. He therefore made the
decision to turn back. After two days, the weather cleared and a successful landing was made. Faced with an outside temperature
of minus 47 degree Celsius, he had a number of factors relating to crew safety to consider when operating in such a harsh and
unfamiliar environment. Functions such as loading the patient, refuelling, starting, taxiing and take-off all had to be carefully
planned and executed, as well as contingencies for aircraft technical issues and emergencies. His planning and attention to detail
ensured that the aircraft and crew remained safe at all times, despite operating at the extremes of both human and equipment

New Zealand Distinguished Service Decoration