Jet Jockeys

Stories about Pilots and the Planes they Fly

Meet Your Host: Brett Vance

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I lived in Odessa, Texas for most of my childhood and attended Permian High School…home of the Friday Night Lights.  My hometown was near a now-closed pilot training base—Webb Air Force Base—which is where I got my inspiration to fly.  The U.S. Air Force Academy was a logical choice for college—if you want to join the company, you should probably attend the company school!

I started my military aviator life as a T-38 Instructor Pilot after graduating from the Air Force Academy, and then went on a few years later to fly the A-10 on a three-year assignment at RAF Bentwaters, England.  About a third of my time there was spent on the European continent supporting NATO operations.  But after five years of operational Warthog flying and almost as many years before that in the training command, it was time to join the flight test business.  I graduated from USAF Test Pilot School and was immediately assigned to the F-16 Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert of California.  In those fast-paced, incredible years as an in-the-trenches military test pilot, I flew a variety of weapons development programs, engine tests, new F-16 avionics upgrades, and several classified programs.  It’s truly fascinating how we can stop the bad guys in their tracks when we pull out all the stops.

After a stint at the Pentagon in Special Programs and Legislative Liaison, I returned to Edwards as Deputy Commandant of the Test Pilot School; and for my final tour on active duty, I reported to Hill Air Force Base in Utah to command the 514th Flight Test Squadron, without a doubt my most challenging yet rewarding officer assignment.

Retiring from the military and thinking my days in federal service were over, I began flying for Delta Air Lines, based in Salt Lake City.  But when the bad guys crashed planes into our buildings on 9/11 and killed thousands of Americans in just minutes, we all knew that the industry had been changed forever.  It was just a matter of time before I and thousands of my closest friends were forced to leave the airlines in the mid-2000s.  Fortunately, my network of fabulous test pilot friends hooked me up with a great job in the test biz again, this time as a government civilian.  For several more years I served as Chief of Training for the Test Pilot School, flying the F-16, T-38, King-Air, and all the gliders…the same flying I was doing as a military officer just a few years before.  Opportunity knocked again, and I left the school to fly with the Federal Aviation Administration as a test pilot, instructor, and evaluator.  There I saw firsthand the wide variety of the latest technology the aviation industry has to offer.  At any one time, I’m the test pilot on over 100 projects!

But now, hosting Jet Jockeys is a dream come true and a totally logical next step.  These years of experiences have primed the pump and all the people I’ve met have so many stories of incredible avaition feats you can’t even imagine.  We must all defy gravity in some way to achieve our dreams, and I will tell you how so many amazing aviators in all walks of life have done just that.  Fly Safe, y’all!

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