As a young child, Dan Hinson wanted to be a doctor and had pictured himself in a doctor’s white coat.
At the University of South Carolina, Hinson was a premed student and in the Navy’s ROTC program.
After college, he joined the Navy and began flying. He never looked back.
“The little engineer in me bloomed,” Hinson said. “It’s hard not to be bitten by the flying bug.”
Hinson, 50, whose call sign is “Shaka,” spent 23 years in the Navy as an officer, fighter pilot, instructor and test pilot.
Today he is Textron Aviation chief pilot for government and special missions and the chief test pilot for Textron AirLand’s new Scorpion jet, a light attack and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft.
Hinson has flown 82 different airplanes, has made more than 500 carrier landings and has logged more than 5,000 flight hours.
In 2002, Hinson was airwing operations officer on board the carrier the USS John F. Kennedy during Operation Enduring Freedom. From 2002 to 2004, he served as executive officer and then commanding officer of the Strike Fighter Weapons School, Pacific in Lemoore, Calif.
He then joined the F/A-18 and EA-18G program office, from which he retired in 2008.
After leaving the Navy, Hinson joined the former Hawker Beechcraft Corp. as program manager and test pilot for the Navy’s T-6B program, then served as research, development, test and evaluation manager and lead test pilot for the AT-6 program.
In 2012, he joined Cessna Aircraft as a test pilot to fly business jets.
But on his second day, Hinson was asked to go to Cessna’s East Pawnee facility and work on a special, then-secret program – the Scorpion.
“They asked, ‘What do you think about this?’ It took me all day to wipe the silly grin off my face,” Hinson said. “They knew my background with weapons and what I’ve been doing. It was sort of a perfect fit. I came over and took this program on. It’s been fast paced and incredibly rewarding ever since.”
Hinson and his wife have two daughters, ages 10 and 12.