Flying into EAA AirVenture Oshkosh for the first time is an experience like no other for every general aviation pilot. The same is true for Capt. Jeremy Knutowski, whose first landing in Oshkosh was in the Rockwell B-1B Lancer.
“It was absolutely amazing,” he said. “It was the greatest feeling ever.”
Jeremy grew up in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, about two and a half hours north of Oshkosh and went to UW-Oshkosh after high school to study physics.
“I wasn’t really ever looking at being in the military,” he said. “I just wanted to go to school.”
Then a friend from high school decided to join the National Guard to help pay for school and asked Jeremy if he would come with him.
“When I was deployed in northern Iraq, we saw that the locals there were really happy that we were there, so I knew at that point that we were actually doing a good thing,” Jeremy said. “But I didn’t know that I wanted to be a pilot at that time.”
As a child, Jeremy didn’t think he had what it took to be a pilot.
“My grandfather [took] me up in a plane when I was little,” he said. “It’s not so much that I didn’t really have that as something I wanted to do. I guess I just doubted that I could actually do it.”
Then, on the way home from Iraq, Jeremy spoke with one of the pilots who was flying their plane home, which led him to pursue a career as a military pilot.
“He was just really humble and was like, ‘Thank you for what you do,’ and I was like, ‘I’m just this guy that drives trucks on the ground, and you fly this awesome plane,’” he said.
Jeremy earned his private pilot certificate at Spring City Aviation in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, before training with the Air Force. He started out flying T-6s before focusing on fighter and bomber aircraft, and eventually he was assigned to the B-1 crew, where he’s been for five years.
“You start off as a copilot, upgrade to an aircraft commander — which means you’re just in charge of the jet — and then instructor pilot,” he said. “So I’ve done those two upgrades, and now I’m down at the schoolhouse teaching students.”
When he learned the B-1 was coming to Oshkosh, Jeremy jumped at the chance to fly back to his old stomping grounds.
“As soon as I knew that we were going to have a jet come here, I started asking everybody, ‘Hey, can I go to this? Can I go to this?’” he said. While he was a student at UWO, Jeremy watched the air show from the Hilton Garden Inn, where he worked as a bartender, and later attended the convention with the National Guard recruiters.
“When I was here before, I wasn’t a pilot, so I didn’t take it in in the same perspective as I do now,” he said. “I forgot how awesome the show is. It’s just amazing.”
Jeremy and the rest of the B-1 crew will be with the aircraft on Boeing Plaza through the end of the convention.