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Safran USA: Employee Spotlight

Human resources

May 25, 2018

Keith Benson, Production Operations Manager at Zodiac Parachute & Protection America

In recognition of the 2018 Memorial Day observance, Safran USA spotlights one of many employees who have served the country and today apply their expertise within Safran.

Keith Benson served in the United States Air Force from 1980 to 1985. Today he is the Production Operations Manager at Zodiac Parachute & Protection America’s South Windsor, Connecticut facility.

Sergeant Benson was an Aircraft Electrical Systems Specialist at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, which was the first to receive the F-16 Fighting Falcon supersonic multi-role fighter.

Benson traveled the world ensuring the operational readiness of the F-16. He was deployed to the Republic of Korea; Philippines; Okinawa; Cairo; and Al Jafr, Jordan in the wake of the 1983 Beirut barracks bombings that killed U.S. and French peacekeepers, along with civilians. During his short time in the Air Force he was awarded the Air Force Achievement Medal for his meritorious service.

Hired by Zodiac Parachute & Protection America in 1996 as a quality assurance technician, Benson has served as Production Operations Manager since 2006.

During his 22 years with Zodiac Aerospace, he has participated in and supervised the manufacture of parachutes in Zodiac Parachute & Protection America’s Class-10,000 cleanroom that have landed five spacecraft on Mars: Britain’s Beagle 2 in 2003, followed by NASA’s Spirit and Opportunity Mars Exploration Rovers in 2004, Phoenix in 2008, and Curiosity in 2012.  

With the launch of the InSight Mars Lander earlier this month from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, Benson and his team can now only wait to see the results of their latest endeavor when InSight lands this November at the Elysium Planitia – the Red Planet’s second largest volcanic region.

Benson said he has applied his military training and experience to the work at Zodiac.

“During my time in the Air Force, I quickly became aware of my personal responsibility to the mission,” he explained. “This has translated to an appreciation here at Zodiac Parachute of just how critical our products are to our customers' mission. I also learned the importance of self-discipline and teamwork to getting the job done, and I’ve tried to instill that same sense of discipline and cooperation in every member of my team.”

With Zodiac officially a part of the Safran business as of February, Benson looks forward to the synergy that comes from the Group. “It’s great to be a part of a large global company with such a strong reputation in space and defense,” he stated. “Our team has been examining how Safran approaches its manufacturing and quality management processes so that we can create synergy in those areas where it will give us the best chance for success.  We’re going to gain a lot from this experience.”

Born and raised in East Hartford, Connecticut, Keith and his wife live in East Hartford. His son is an IT professional in the insurance industry. An avid keep-fit enthusiast, Keith enjoys hiking and cycling, and swims 2-3 miles a week at the local high school.