VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. — A Vance Air Force Base instructor pilot jumped at the opportunity of a lifetime to be a guest at an air show right next to his father.
First Lieutenant Christy Thorstenson, first assignment instructor pilot assigned to the 25th Flying Training Squadron, flew one of Vance’s T-38C Talon heritage jets at Joint Base Andrews Air & Space Expo, Sept. 17-18, Maryland.
Thorstenson spoke to guests at the expo about being a pilot, the capabilities of the T-38, and the life of being an Air Force instructor pilot.
However, she wasn’t the only one Thorstenson invited. Her father, Michael, flew to the Expo with her mother, Joanne, and parked the family-owned North American T-28 Trojan a few planes from Christy’s T-38.
“It was an incredible time doing a show together,” Christy said.
It’s easy to see, Christy Thorstenson comes from a family of aviators. Her father, Michael Thorstenson, is an American Airlines pilot, a test pilot for Lockheed Martin, and a retired Navy C-130 aviator. Michael also restores planes to fly around the country to air shows.
His mother, Joanne Thorstenson, is an American Airlines flight attendant about to become a pilot herself. Christy’s parents met when her father was piloting a flight for American Airlines and her mother was the flight attendant on the plane.
Growing up, Christy and her mother went to air shows where her father performed. Being surrounded by air force inspired Christy to pursue it on her own.
“What really made me want to fly was growing up in the community and seeing it made me realize it was something I really wanted to do,” she said.
According to a fact sheet on the Hurlburt Field (Florida) website, “North American Aviation’s T-28 Trojan, 1948, won competition for next generation pilot training aircraft. He became the first completely new manager after World War II.
“However, plans to use it for both basic and advanced training had to be altered when it became apparent that the speed and power of the T-28s challenged new cadets too soon. Modifications to the pre-World War II North American T-6 Texan, with its smaller engine, met Air Force needs for basic training during the Korean War.
Christy Thorstenson said it was a unique opportunity to partner with her father and show show guests the progression of pilot training aircraft over the years, especially with her father who was an instructor in the T-28 and she as an instructor in the T-38.
She said there was a group of second graders surrounding her father at the expo. He said to them, “See that pilot over there?” pointing to Christy. “This is the best pilot in the Air Force.”
The group ran up to her and started asking her all kinds of questions ranging from “How do I become a pilot?” to “Where did you get your pilot sunglasses?”
“This aviation thing is for everyone,” Christy said. “It’s not only an incredible hobby, but an incredible lifestyle and community.” That community has played a huge part in Christy’s upbringing, and she gives back by encouraging future Airmen to be a part of it and see what all the fuss is about.
“I want these guys to be able to see themselves becoming riders and have a community that encourages them and never makes them feel out of place. I really hope I’m to others what my parents were to me,” Christy said.