Pilot Trevor Aldridge has done it all. He’s flown fighter jets, commercial planes, aerobatic planes—he’s achieved just about everything you can in the world of aviation. He’s also a dad to two. He sat down with BinkyBro to tell us how he reached the heights of his career.

Trevor, as a pilot, you’ve basically lived the dream of almost every little kid. How influential were your parents in your career path?

They were my mentors along the way. I grew up poor from a broken home, but there was lots of love. Even as a kid I knew I wanted to achieve something big, and I always had the emotional support of my family.

I imagine that was just the beginning of a long road to becoming a pilot . . .

Exactly. I was the first in my family to go to college. I was in the Air Force ROTC at Texas A&M where I got a degree in engineering. After graduation I got a spot as a pilot at Sheppard Falls Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas. That’s where I learned how to fly F-15 Eagles, and I flew those for a long time.

I got married right out of college and my wife and I had lots of moves during my time in the Air Force including countries like Japan and England, but the constant was flying. Eventually I joined the Thunderbirds Air Force team.

Wow! What is the process like to become a Thunderbird pilot?

You need lots of letters of recommendation and a pilot history and career with no blemishes. Even then, you can apply over and over and never hear back. The third time I applied, I told my wife I didn’t want to have any regrets so I went for it again. When I applied we had just moved to England and my little boys were three years old and 1 year old. England was our dream location. But right after our move was finished I was called to join the team. So we moved all over again. It was a pretty crazy time in our life. 

One thing that is surprising to some about the entire process is that you don’t actually have to have any experience flying an F-16 when you apply. That seems to catch some people off guard who aren't familiar with the aviation world.

What is the process like to learn the actual airshow demo?

That process is intense. When I first arrived they gave me about three to four flights to get familiar with the F-16. After that, you fly with the flight lead for 20 or so flights to get more exposure to the demonstration. Eventually the team works its way to about 100 successful demonstration flights before the show season ever starts.  It’s a rigorous schedule, but such an honor.

What’s your favorite part of being a Thunderbird?

Definitely getting to talk to middle school and high school kids. They know what they want to do after high school, but they often don’t know how to get there. One thing I love about being a pilot is that no matter where you come from, everyone starts off the same. What matters is what you do and how hard you work.

You have two boys—if they show interest in being pilots, what will you do as a dad to support them?

Whether they want to be civilian or military pilots, my recommendation for anyone is to use high school to get ready mentally and physically to push yourself and to not quit. Playing a sport builds grit and physical toughness, and the team aspect is important as well. Find a sport and be the absolute best in it.

It’s the same academically—school might be boring, but if you want to be successful, you have to discipline yourself. Most fighter pilots are engineers, but it’s not a requirement. Some come from political science or criminal justice backgrounds. Something to consider is that you often have a better chance of getting a scholarship with a technical degree.

What about kids who are interested in airplanes, but have less experience around them?

Ask your local airport if they have part-time jobs available. Immerse yourself in the culture in whatever ways you can. Most flight schools have opportunities for teenagers to help out with sweeping or something basic.

Thank you so much for your time, Trevor! Before you go, tell us about your YouTube channel.

My YouTube channel is to get the next generation pumped about aviation. It’s great for kids who don’t have a lot of experience around airplanes.

And one last thing, we gotta know your call sign.

Dozen—the name of my YouTube channel is actually Dozen Duzit.

That’s the coolest. On behalf of BinkyBro, thank you for your service!

July 01, 2022 — Matthew Fisler