Binnie was born in West Lafayette, Indiana, where his Scottish father William P. Binnie was a professor of physics at Purdue University. The family returned to Scotland when Binnie was five, and lived in Aberdeen (his father taught at Aberdeen University) and later in Stirling. When Binnie was a teenager the family moved to Boston.
Binnie, an alumnus of Brown and Princeton Universities, served for 21 years in the United States Navy as a naval aviator flying the A-7 Corsair II, A-6 Intruder, F/A-18 Hornet, and AV-8B Harrier II. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School in 1988. Binnie also copiloted the Atmospheric Test Vehicle of the Rotary Rocket. In 2006, he received an Honorary degree from University of Aberdeen.
I wake up every morning and thank God I live in a country where all of this is possible. Where you have the Yankee ingenuity to roll up your sleeves, get a band of people who believe in something and go for it and make it happen. It doesn't happen anywhere else.
— Brian Binnie, October 4, 2004, after completing flight 17P