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Country music star: Dierks Bentley

Singer, songwriter, pilot

It’s somewhat ironic that one of country music star Dierks Bentley’s most acclaimed songs (nominated for 2014 CMA song of the year and winner of the video of the year) is the heartbreak ballad of flying alone to a canceled honeymoon.

Photography by Chris RoseIronic because Bentley is a 4,000-hour pilot who would never be Drunk on a Plane. The video is silly and lighthearted but wait for the end—the singer ends up in the cockpit, flying the airliner to safety.

Bentley, who owned a Cirrus SR22T and flew a Cessna Citation CJ4 that were destroyed by tornadoes that struck the Nashville area in March, took his first flight at 13 (he won an auctioned flight in a Cessna 152) and earned his pilot certificate when he was in his early 20s. School and a budding music career put aviation on the back burner for several years but in 2010, about 14 years after getting his pilot certificate, Bentley knocked off the rust and started flying a Cirrus. He earned his instrument rating, multiengine rating, and a type rating in the Cessna 525. Bentley said he loves going to recurrent training at FlightSafety International and other training providers to work in the simulators. “I feel like I’m going to aviation fantasy camp,” he said, laughing that he likes to hang out with professional pilots, drink the lobby coffee, and learn that “my brain works, not just creatively.”

Bentley has garnered more than 6.4 billion digital streams and received more than 50 nominations from the Academy of Country Music Awards, Country Music Association, and Billboard Music with 14 Grammy nominations. “I’m a big champion of aviation and what it allows you to do,” Bentley said. “I think I do represent a large part of the population that has to travel for work.”

The singer says he used to spend 200 days on his bus touring, but the airplane changed all that. “I loved having the jet to get to show to show,” he said. Once he can return to playing live music, he hopes to get another jet. “However, the older I get, the slower I want to go. It’s nice to hold that stick in your hand.”

Bentley has recently teamed up with aerobatic pilot Michael Goulian as one of AOPA’s You Can Fly Champions (see “Pilot Briefing: You Can Fly Champions Share Love of Flight,” page 34).

Email [email protected]

Julie Walker

Julie Summers Walker

AOPA Senior Features Editor
AOPA Senior Features Editor Julie Summers Walker joined AOPA in 1998. She is a student pilot still working toward her solo.

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