The reason why we are creating FlyteCo Brewing (formerly Unusual Attitude & Aero Craft Brewing) goes far beyond three guys wanting to make and serve beer for a living. We want to create an idea much bigger than that. We want to create a community where pilots and non-pilots alike can come and share their stories of adventure.
Last Tuesday was one of the coolest days of my life and I felt compelled to share the type of story that I imagine people telling in our taproom over one of Jason’s delicious creations.
My best bud since high school and fellow aviation nut, Captain Tyler McBride, took me for a personal tour of the flightline at Hill AFB in Ogden, UT.
Before I tell you how cool that day was, let me tell you a little bit about our history.
I got my pilot’s license when I was 17 and immediately offered to take Tyler up in the Champ. This offer was met with much resistance from Tyler’s mother, but being the rebellious 17 year olds we were, we took the Champ out for a spin countless times, not telling his mother till years later.
From that point, the two of us took very different paths in our aviation careers. I studied it from an engineering aspect, while he attended the Air Force Academy and became an F-16 Pilot (one of us has a much more exciting day-to-day).
Tyler helped my dad and I build our RV-10 in our garage and since has shared a few adventures in it with me.
Tyler and I with the RV-10 in Renton, WA
(thanks for wearing an applicable t-shirt for this photo Tyler)
Capt. McBride, leaves for Afghanistan with the 421st Fighter Squdron, the Black Widows, this week and I couldn’t let him go overseas without seeing him off myself.
I flew into SLC Monday morning and Tyler picked me up with two mountain bikes in the back of his truck, destined for some downhill riding at Park City.
After a day of amazing fall views at Park City we drank a few Unusual Attitude (now Aero Craft Brewing) beers brewed by yours truly in Seattle, and enjoyed a well-deserved steak dinner.
The next morning we woke, made some great breakfast burritos (complete with venison sausage and pizza rolls…yes pizza rolls), and drove over to Hill AFB and watch some of his fellow F-16 Black Widows take off right on time from a perfect vantage point at the end of the runway.
“How cool!” I thought, not knowing what the rest of the day had in store for me.
After that quick nerd out session, we headed out onto the flightline. The first stop was to check out the Black Widows F-16s.
Me, Tyler, and his mean looking baby (Airplane nerds…there is an F-35 on the right in the background…just sayin’)
Gratuitous butt shot coming down from an F-16 cockpit.
At this point during the day, the only thought running through my head was, “Tyler has the coolest office ever!”
Tyler looked at his watch and said that the Black Widows we watched takeoff earlier should be heading back to land soon and that we should go find a spot to watch as they come in. We start walking over towards the runway, but got distracted by a beautiful P-38 Lightning WWII fighter.
Quick history lesson
We talked to the P-38 pilot for a little bit. He is a civilian pilot that tours the country with historic airplanes and flies ‘commemorative’ flights alongside modern military aircraft. “This guy has the coolest job in the entire world!” I thought (and vocalized). Later that day, we looked up and saw this P-38 Lightning flying in tight formation with the F-35 Lightning pictured earlier.
Continuing on to watch the F-16s land, I couldn’t help but notice we kept walking directly toward the control tower. Before I put two and two together, we were at the base of the tower where Tyler picked up a phone and got clearance to go inside.
A twelve-story elevator ride to the top and all of a sudden I was hanging out with military controllers in an active air traffic control tower!!
Me in disbelief of where I was standing
I had the opportunity to shadow the controller as each of them explained to me their individual positions while still running the airspace around Hill AFB. As I was talking with one controller, he stopped to respond to an incoming radio call. It was the Black Widows, they were about 100 miles out and inbound for landing practice. The controller looked at me and said, “Do you want to go out on the catwalk and watch them come in?” Unable to fathom anymore awesome surprises that day, I just stood there in shock. “Hell yes!!” Tyler responded for me, showing me toward the door that leads outside.
Stepping out onto the catwalk, the both of us immediately get vertigo from looking down. “Woah! We are really up here!” I thought. It wasn’t long before Tyler pointed out the first pair of planes coming in. The squadron of F-16s each shot a few practice approaches before landing.
“Normally we turn left and away from the tower when flying in the pattern here. But, the controllers inside told them we are here, they might turn right and we would get a personal show. Sure enough…
A personal show just for us!! The only way I can properly describe that moment is with a picture from a similar scene in Top Gun.
I was awestruck. All I could think about was all the people and the hard work that all had to happen for this one moment. All of the engineers that design these awesome machines, all of the mechanics that keep them running, the United States military that works around the clock to fight for our freedom, all of the personal obstacles that Tyler had to overcome to get himself to a position where he could make all of this happen, and all of the American taxpayers keeping these planes in the air.
Those ten minutes that we stood out there watching F-16s practice was one of the most powerful moments of my life. During that moment, I felt as if my entire country was tipping their hats toward me. I couldn’t think of a single other place in the world where something like this was possible. It was then that I realized the true gravity of why Tyler was going overseas to fight. Everything we enjoy and take for granted here at home isn’t an entitlement, but rather they are rights that we all may enjoy, fought for and earned by an elite few.
We concluded this amazing day with a few minutes in the F-16 simulator where I got the feeling that everything in my life had come full circle. No longer was I the one teaching Tyler how to fly a 1946 Aeronca Champ, but rather he was the one showing me how to fly an F-16.
I thank you Capt. McBride, the Black Widows, the United States Air Force, the entire United States military, and the American taxpayers for creating and maintaining an environment where people like me can actually chase their own dreams of starting their own companies. While you are over there, doing the work that most people can’t stomach, I will build a company that reflects everything that you and my country have given me, and create a place where people like you and I can sit and tell stories like this one.
Godspeed, Tyler. I will be waiting here for you with a cold beer and a place to tell your stories when you come home.
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