Wildcat Tracks: Ben Wagner ’93

For many of us, flying is a test of our faith. The mere thought of taking off into the sky brings a sense of emotion we cannot control. Yet as Christians we know that Christ has all power and authority on earth and in the air. To others, however, the mystery of flight is a lure—a draw that fascinates and intrigues. Ben Wagner was just a kid when he first realized he was interested in aviation. “My Dad grew up by the airport in Des Moines, Iowa, so he always had a fascination with airplanes. When I was ten years old, I flew with him to a conference in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. We flew on United Airlines through Chicago O’Hare. All four flights on that trip were on a 737, and I was amazed by the miracle of flight. I think that trip planted a desire in me to fly for a living. However, I didn’t know any pilots at the time and had no practical way to get from where I was to where I needed to go career-wise.”

While a student at Westminster, Ben recalls having several teachers who gave him a firm foundation, both in faith life and educationally. “I began attending Westminster in the middle of my 7th grade year,” he said. “I enjoyed playing baseball, running on the cross country team, and participating in the drama club.”

“I had many great teachers at Westminster who challenged me academically and spiritually. Scott Holley was such a good teacher and coach. He really encouraged us to dream big and pursue excellence through hard work. Mr. Eddie Jones was an awesome example through the W.I.L.D. Club—we learned leadership and camping survival skills. Dr. Shaw made a big impression on me during his chemistry and physics classes by showing how God works through science and creation.”

After graduating high school and obtaining a degree in chemistry from Missouri Baptist University, Ben was headed to graduate school when he decided to switch gears. “While at the University of Kentucky for grad school, I realized I was just spinning my wheels in chemistry. One day, I took an introductory flight lesson at the Bluegrass Airport,” he said. “It was at that moment I knew I wanted to be an airline pilot. So I quit graduate school to figure out how to fly and moved back to St. Louis to regroup.”

Ben Wagner the last time he flew an MD-88 before they were retired

Ben has been a regional airline pilot since 2000, currently flying for Delta Airlines, “I have had the privilege of flying the DC-9, MD-88, A320, and A330, both domestic and international. I am currently a captain on the Airbus A320 based out of Atlanta, Georgia, where I live with my wife, Christina. We have seven beautiful children, two boys and five girls. We have four children by birth and three children by adoption. My oldest child, Andrew, was adopted from Vladivostok, Russia, and the twin girls were adopted from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. We are currently working on adopting a little boy from Kyrgyzstan.”

Ben’s typical week of work involves three or four-day trips in the afternoons and evenings. And just like any job, some days are better than others. “The hardest part of my job is when things don’t go according to plan, then flexing with the changes to get back on track. This can be uncertain due to weather or a mechanical problem, as we all like predictability and an early arrival,” he explained. “I definitely have had some excitement along the way. One of the more memorable events happened when I was with Continental Express. I experienced engine failure not too long after takeoff and had to return to the airport. Thankfully, the weather was great, and there was no further drama once we were back on the ground. As the old saying goes, ‘Better to be on the ground wishing you were in the air than in the air wishing you were on the ground!’ That being said, one of the best parts of being a pilot is punching through a winter overcast, dreary layer of sky into brilliant sunshine above. That and taking all our customers where they want to go.”

While being a regional pilot often entails facing a demanding schedule that includes irregular working hours and extended periods away from home, Ben has the security of being able to lean on his faith. “I would say my faith keeps me going. Especially during difficult times like just after 9/11 and then throughout Covid. The Lord keeps sustaining me. No matter what may happen in this current life, I know where I will end up eternally. Thanks to the incredible sacrifice of His son Jesus on the cross, I am rich in His love and mercy,” Ben said. “I do believe this is the most important principle in life and what our world needs most today. The more people that live with Jesus as Lord, the more our world will be filled with goodness and grace!”

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