EAA Air Academy Turns Flight-Loving Youth into Professional Pilot

In celebration of the 35th anniversary of the EAA Air Academy in 2018, we’re featuring Air Academy graduates whose stories inspire and exemplify the impact of the program.

A love of aviation runs through Brian Greene’s family, but it was a trip to the EAA Air Academy when he was 15 that acted as the springboard to send Brian, EAA 257271, into a truly aviation-filled life.

Growing up in Viroqua, Wisconsin, Brian was not next door to Oshkosh, but his father, an EAA member, took him the requisite 150 miles to his first fly-in convention there when Brian was seven. He’s missed only a few conventions since that year, mostly due to new additions to the family or work obligations.

The silver lining, at least, about those work obligations is that they saw Brian get to fly. He’s currently a pilot for FedEx, the latest stop in an aviation career that began with the Air Academy, where Brian said he had countless experiences with some legendary airplanes.

“One night I remember we went to Kermit Weeks Hangar and got a tour of the facility there in the evening, where we got to climb inside the B-17 when that was still being worked on,” he said. “I remember climbing all over inside a Corsair back at that time too.”

As special as the airplanes are, the people associated with them tend to stick out as well. Brian instantly knew he fit in with his class at the academy, because a strong love for aviation was the common thread that linked all of the students.

“I remember hanging out in the dorms with other guys,” Brian said. “We bought plastic models there in the museum gift shop and were building them at night. It was neat hanging out with people with similar interests to you.”

His interest for homebuilding grew at the Air Academy as well, as the students helped restore a Rearwin Cloudster. The skills he picked up and honed working on various projects in Oshkosh have helped Brian in the building of his RV-7, which he hopes will be complete soon.

“My favorite thing I did was when we fabric covered an aileron on the DC-3,” Brian said. “I learned how to do fabric covering back then. I did a little bit of welding in high school because my dad was an industrial arts teacher, so I kind of knew how to do that a little bit, but [the academy] introduced other people to welding.”

Brian’s family supported his then-apparent passion for flight in earnest after he came home from Oshkosh.

“After I returned from the Air Academy my parents finally realized I was truly interested in doing this, and they wanted me to continue with my interest,” Brian said. “That was 1985. I believe in October of that year I was still 15, and I started taking flying lessons in La Crosse. I would work all week long in a grocery store bagging groceries and stocking shelves to make enough money to fly for a lesson on Saturday or Sunday.”

Brian soloed three days after his 16th birthday and got his private pilot certificate about a year later. He earned the rest of the certifications and ratings necessary to fly professionally while attending the University of North Dakota.

His first professional piloting job out of college was flying scenic Grand Canyon tours. After seeing enough of the desert, Brian moved on to Masaba Airlines. A few years after that, he got his current FedEx position, which brought  a welcome change to hauling cargo.

“I don’t miss flying people at all,” he said, failing to stifle a knowing laugh.

Flying with people still works for Brian, though. On one flight from Memphis to Honolulu, he ended up in the cockpit with a relief first officer while the captain rested. The two got to talking about their roots in aviation, and low and behold it turned out Scott Taylor, EAA Lifetime 310186, was also an Air Academy graduate.

“Scott went to the air academy a few years after I did,” Brian said. “We got to talking, and at the time we didn’t know that either one of us went to the academy.”

Whenever Brian thinks back to those days, he said he gets nostalgic, and for good reason. His Air Academy days have led him to a career and a homebuilding project he loves.

“I wish I had a time machine to go back and relive it,” he said.

If you or someone you know has an Air Academy story to share, e-mail us at twindisch@eaa.org.

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