OFF DUTY: Jerome LeBlanc a.k.a California Tom Cruise

With Oscars season upon us, there has been a lot of excitement in the news about the film Top Gun: Maverick being nominated for six awards! We were excited to have a surprise visit to the Cockpit USA headquarters! Who was it you ask? It was none other than the extremely talented Jerome LeBlanc or, as we like to call him, @CaliforniaTomCruise.

Jerome called us up to inform our team that he would be in town for a project at the Kelly Ripa & Ryan Seacrest “After Oscar show”. He stopped by our NY showroom to check out our new styles and talk about what it takes to be an impersonator of one of the big screen’s most renowned fighter pilots, Maverick!


Read what Jerome had to share below:


Cockpit USA: How did you become California Tom Cruise?

Jerome LeBlanc: Becoming a Top Gun Maverick impersonator first started off as a way to make ends meet while I was on a school visa. I was then noticed by several entertainment agencies – and after doing many events, I created a company called: “California Tom Cruise”.Cockpit USA : Who was the first person to tell you that you looked like Tom Cruise?

Jerome LeBlanc: When I moved from Montreal to Los Angeles, many people started telling me I looked like Tom Cruise. So, I put on the flight suit uniform from Top Gun, and tried street performing. To my surprise, I did so unbelievably well – I made more than I did while bartending.

Cockpit USA: How often are you mistaken for Tom Cruise?

Jerome LeBlanc: With the age difference of about 30 years … I’m not necessarily mistaken for Tom Cruise. But I do notice a lot of double takes and a lot of strangers approaching me to share that they think I look so much like the actor.


Cockpit USA:  Tell me something about yourself that others would not guess about you?

Jerome LeBlanc: A lot of people would think I’m extremely out going to be able to do this kind of work, but I’m actually an introvert, and performing as Maverick has gotten me out of my comfort zone and helped me with my social skills.

Cockpit USA: What has been your most challenging experience as an entertainer?

Jerome LeBlanc: The most challenging experience as an entertainer would probably be the amount of travel I do. I have two small ones and a wife at home. Leaving them behind is tough. But my wife and I run this company together. We both are very dedicated to keeping our work a “family business” and building towards the future we both want.

Captured above is Cockpit USA's Founder Jeff Clyman meeting Jerome LeBlanc for the first time! 

Cockpit USA: What has been your most rewarding experience as an entertainer?

Jerome LeBlanc: I think what is rewarding - and the biggest accomplishment I’m most proud of with being an entertainer; is that it took years before it became a constant form of income that my family and I could depend on. But we never doubted that it would work, so we struggled and sacrificed in ways that makes us appreciate everything that much more now that we run a successful entertainment business.

Cockpit USA: How did you come across Cockpit USA?

Jerome LeBlanc : I was contacted by the Cockpit USA team through Instagram, and they’ve been such a fantastic company to work with. I love how authentic the merchandise is. The craftsmanship is unbelievable, and they take a lot of pride in creating their pieces. It’s stylish and patriotic!

Cockpit USA : What can we look forward to seeing from you in the near future?

Jerome LeBlanc: I believe, in the near future - I’ll be able to have even more unique opportunities to express myself artistically. Which I’m very much looking forward to, since I’ve always been an artist before a performer. Visit LeBlanc Fine Art here

Cockpit USA : Lastly, is there a celebrity that you would like to meet?

Jerome LeBlanc: I don’t really have an interest in meeting a specific celebrity. Sometimes, with public figure it’s better to leave them to the imagination. Because, like myself, I’m more than what I post. And either that can be appreciated or disappointing.



 Featured above is American Media Personality Ryan Secreast wearing our signature Cockpit USA "Movie Hero" Top Gun G-1 Jacket with Jerome LeBlanc!  

It has been an incredible year since the film Maverick premiered and resurrected the epic tale of Top Gun. We visited the Kips Bay theater in New York to watch the movie together as a team and we collectively agreed that the film was “Fantastic!  A great reason to return to the movie theater.” Since that time we have been busy fulfilling Cockpit USA “Movie Hero” jacket orders and sharing in the exhilaration that is the Top Gun community!

When we first met California Tom Cruise, we had no idea what to expect. Since that time his palpable energy has been recognized by all that surround him. We love the joy that he brings to the Top Gun community and our brand. We appreciate all that you do, Jerome! We’re looking forward to seeing what you do next!

Click here to shop our Movie Hero Collection


 OFF DUTY: With Pilot Simon Valentin

Is it Thanksgiving week already? This year has been incredibly exciting! All of us at Cockpit USA would like to wish you a happy and peaceful Thanksgiving shared with family and friends.
To offer you a bit of company throughout the holiday weekend our creative team has put together an Off Duty feature with Aerobatic Pilot @_simon_valentin from France. Shown here wearing our RAF Sheepskin Jacket while flying the legendary vintage WWII PT-17 Stearman.
Our Off Duty profiles feature like-minded individuals that share a passion for aviation and fantastic jackets, while telling their personal stories in their own words on what it truly means to be a Cockpit USA brand ambassador. We invite you to meet Pilot Simon Valentin as he shares his story of aviation. 


What inspired you to become a pilot?

Going back as far as I can recall, as a kid I wanted to be an actor in Hollywood. I didn’t really know what that meant and I knew even less about Hollywood. However, I had a strong passion for the movies. I saw Hollywood as a world where everything is possible.

A few years later, I started developing another interest, flying. There have been a few pilots in the family, my grandfather and my uncle flew airplanes, and my dad is a helicopter pilot. Before I even was old enough to officially learn how to fly, I already knew how to read instruments, navigate and maneuver a Bell 206 Jet Ranger. Thanks to my dad, before I became a pilot myself, I had already earned a few flight hours and more importantly a passion that completely defined my whole life. 


Where are you from? And where do you live now?

I’m from a town named Limoges right in the center of France. We are worldwide famous for our ceramics and our cows, but that’s pretty much it! This is a great city though, with a very beautiful countryside and fantastic weather for  IFR* conditions… (*Instrument Flying Rules). Now I live in Paris, if you’ve never heard of it…  it’s another small city located in the north of France.

On IG you’re listed as a comedian. Tell me a joke?

Well in French, “comedian” actually means “actor”, more than stand-up comedian so there might be something lost in translation here,  but I’m actually not (yet) an actor I am  working on uniting both my worlds of flying and acting one day! 

Off Duty Simon Valentin

What is the Limouzi Aerobatic Team? What is your involvement?

The LAT is basically the aerobatic branch of our air club. I am a flight instructor there: The Aeroclub NASA, that stands  for New Aerobatic Sport Association… in Limoges. The LAT is originally a aerobatic association created by Pierre Girardeau 20 years ago. He launched it with just his one airplane, the Mudry Cap 10, and in a few years the club grew and now we do all sorts of flights. I’ve been a part of the LAT almost since the beginning and a few years later my best friend and wingman Lionel joined the team. In an effort to showcase our aerobatics apart from the general flying,  my passion for the cinema kicked in so we’ve designed a new logo, bought a couple cameras and made lots of “humoristic” videos to share with everybody. I have always enjoyed filming  aviation!

What is a regular flight like for an Aerobatic Pilot?

First, we get together in the hangar for coffee like the regular caffeine addicts that we are. Then,  the flight begins on the ground where we check everything on the plane; the engine, the parachute (which is mandatory), everything.

This type of flying adds a very unusual stress onto the plane, so we want to make sure everything is green lighted. We also check the weather forecast (by taking a glimpse through the window). A briefing of an aerobatic flight is basically a repetition of the flight as if you’re preparing for a competition or an air show.

One must execute the little dance on the ground by mimicking all the maneuvers of your program, if only to refresh your memory for later. Often during an aerobatic flight, between having your head upside down and all the G-Forces, you could have a tendency to lose some of your brain capacity… It’s better to have somebody helping you get installed into the plane. Aerobatic flying is always better/safer with team work. After that, it’s getting your motor runnin’ and you’re good to go!

300 horse power launching our Extra 300 very quickly vertical to the airfield, then it’s barrel rolls, loops, inverted flight, Positive G’s, negative G’s deforming your face and making you weigh up to 8 times your body weight! Hundreds of combinations of maneuvers that are all listed in the Aresti catalogues for your own pleasure and more for the Free Flight pilots. 

Off Duty With Simon Valentin

Share with me a flight experience that you are most proud of?

All my “first time” flight experiences put aside, the flight that is for sure one of my most memorable life and flight experiences was my trip from France to Cap Skirring in Senegal in a small Mudry Cap 10, which was our aerobatic plane at the time. The plane was equipped with only an altimeter and a compass. My friend Pierre Girardeau who taught me everything in aviation was born in Dakar in Senegal, and had this pretty crazy idea to go fly aerobatics where he spent most of his childhood in Cap Skirring at the very south of Senegal. We built a team of three airplanes to go there and I got to fly the Cap 10 with my wingman Lionel. We crossed France, Spain, Morocco, Mauritania, Gambia and Senegal in three days, we flew over some pretty vast deserts, all alone in the world in our little plane with just our auxiliary fuel tank. We basically followed the path of the heroes of the Aeropostale, St Exupery and Mermoz and we felt like Lindbergh while pumping fuel from our auxiliary tank over the desert, which might as well have been over the Atlantic. 

I personally felt very lucky when we landed in Saint-Louis in Senegal, this place is loaded with history and when we got there after flying full throttle just a couple meters above the ocean, I felt like I had lived a very rare experience. 

Unfortunately, after we got there, just as I was about to go for my first Senegalese aerobatic flight, I experienced a massive engine failure right after take-off, fortunately I managed to land safely but that was the end of the adventure. Since, my wish is to go back there as soon as possible!



What does “Russell Case’s Sterman PT-17” mean to you?

Well as everyone should know of course, Russell Case is the drunk character who saves the world in the movie Independence Day. I must admit, I’m not sure that this movie has aged very well but it is one of the cinema experiences that I remember the most watching as a kid. Good old school nineties Bad Ass Will Smith in a F-18 (which was already one of my favorite planes). That movie was something!

Anyway, there is this Russel Case character who is always flying his Stearman PT-17 drunk, who ends up saving the world in a F-18 throwing his plane at the alien spaceship yelling “Up youuuuurs!!!”, what’s not to like?


What does being a pilot mean to you?

I’m not sure I can explain it…  Getting all this wood and metal up in the air, and then it’s being alone in the plane that I feel the responsibility right from take off. Your survival depends only on your ability to get the airplane back on land safely, it’s a very strange but addictive feeling.

I feel a very strong bond with all my pilot friends, doing this extraordinary thing that is flying. To still feel that very strong connection with the beauty of it and of its history. 

How did you come to know Cockpit USA?

As a lover of everything that is linked to old school aviation, and more particularly the WWII period, for years I’ve been dreaming and looking for a leather jacket that would be the closest thing to the original military issued ones in the RAF and the USAF. Of course I quickly read on the internet about Avirex and then Cockpit USA.

Off Duty With Simon Valentin

What are your favorite Cockpit USA styles?  

Well I had been dreaming of this for years,  the B-3 and the  RAF sheepskin bomber jackets. I like taking my time with  the things that I really like, so I wasn’t in a rush. Last year I was ready to go for it but I was stalling a bit. My beautiful girlfriend Annalisa ended up offering it to me last Christmas. I almost had a stroke, it was beyond my dreams… God what a girl, and what a jacket… 

Then as you know, we went to NYC after that and I wanted the G-1 so bad, which is lighter than the sheepskin and I wanted to have a piece of aviation history on me all the time. That’s when I had the pleasure to see where the magic happens and meet all you nice people! Now I basically wear those two jackets all the time!



The weather is really starting to heat up! Our creative team caught up with Pilot Tory Crosby based in Las Vegas to see how she is cooling things off in the desert. Currently in Dallas, Texas at CAE flight school working on her Global Express Jet Type Rating, Tory delves into how she went from seeing an introductory , “no experience required” flight class advertisement to a full time career in Aviation in the Q & A below.

Cockpit USA: How did you become involved with aviation? Tell me about the events that led to you becoming a pilot?


Pilot Tory: I was working as a bartender in Las Vegas when my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She had me make a promise to her that I would travel and explore new experiences and that I would live life fully, to the best of my ability. Having no idea how I was going to make money doing that, I set off to try new experiences in hopes that I would figure it out. So I traveled and explored skydiving and racing cars, that is when I saw an advertisement for an intro flight in a helicopter. The ad read: “No experience required. We will let you take controls and fly”. Seeing this as an excellent opportunity to try something new, I signed up! After a short ground introduction, we were at the helicopter and taking off. In no time, this instructor was handing over controls, and I was flying a helicopter. It was an instant addiction. I remember looking at the instructor and asking him “You get paid to do this?” And with the biggest smile on his face, he replied “Yup”. A few short months after that flight I earned my helicopter license. 

Cockpit USA: How has becoming a pilot impacted your life?


Pilot Tory: Becoming a pilot has impacted my life in so many ways. From the people I’ve met, the places I’ve been, and the incredible places I’ve seen. The fact is that I wake up excited to go to work. At the risk of sounding like a complete and total cliché, I earn money by flying, just so I can go and spend that money on flying for fun. 
Cockpit USA: In your eyes what is your greatest accomplishment thus far? 


Pilot Tory: My greatest accomplishment thus far would be getting my first initial pilot's license. That is a time when you know absolutely nothing and in the beginning, it could seem overwhelming. You go into your first check-ride exam to get your license not knowing what to expect. Feeling like you don’t know all the things you should. So even though this isn’t my biggest accomplishment in aviation by scale, it is my greatest!


Photo by : Brandon Spann

Cockpit USA: Last December you posted “You’re only as young as you feel” for a video where you underwent a G-force training. Could you tell me more about that experience?


 Off Duty Story: With Pilot Tory

Pilot Tory: Last year, I pulled 8 Gs in an aerobatic airplane. This was a birthday present I got for myself! The joke was most people black out on their birthdays… so, I was going to do it too, just not the typical kind of “black out”. That said, it’s not every day that you get to pull 8Gs in an airplane that is 8 times your body weight being pushed down on you. Most pilots can’t withstand those Gs without training. I love doing aerobatics, but I typically only pull a maximum of 4. So being able to do double was quite an experience. 




Cockpit USA: According to the International Society of Women Airline Pilots, 5.8% of the worlds airline pilots are female. How has your experience of being a woman in a male dominate industry been? Is there anything that you would like to share with aspiring female pilots?


Pilot Tory: My experience has been pleasant.  Most pilots I have met and worked with have such a love for aviation that they enjoy sharing their knowledge and passion with everyone, male or female. In my 3500 hours of flying, I have only had one passenger refuse to fly with me. He requested one pilot and when I was the one that showed up, he asked for a male pilot. The company I was flying for at the time fully had my back and refused to send another pilot if his only concern was that I am a woman. Being supported by your employer really instills your sense of belonging and this is definitely something I would like to see more of in all industries, employers standing up for their employees. 

Cockpit USA: What can we look forward to seeing from you next?


Pilot Tory: In the next week, I will be a Global type-rated pilot; I plan to start doing more international flying, this time in my favorite corporate jet, as well as more fun general aviation flying adventures and aerobatics in my off time. 


Cockpit USA: What is your favorite Cockpit USA jacket and why?


Pilot Tory: I am just so grateful to be an ambassador for Cockpit USA. They are an amazing family-oriented company that encompasses everything I love about aviation. My favorite jacket is the Women’s Raider, it is the one I wear the most. Considering how often I wear it, the material and quality never fade, which is a testament to the quality of the products. 

Photography by: Brandon Span & Daniel Ottavio 


 OFF DUTY STORY : With Pilot Bruno

It's hard to believe that we're throwing it back 36 years to the release of the original Top Gun movie! It was truly an unforgettable experience working with Paramount promoting the first movie, long before we ever knew just how big this would become...
Since then, we have sewn countless amounts of squadron patches onto our leather G-1 flight jackets. The original "Movie Hero" style has graced the covers of magazines, donned by celebrities, and we have even been invited into some of your homes through personal family holiday cards and photos. For this, we are forever grateful! 
36 years later, "Top Gun" remains one of the most influential air-combat action films ever made; placing the F-14 Tomcat in front of the world as an iconic symbol for an entire generation. The U.S. Navy also reported their highest number of recruit applications that year. 

Fast forward to 2018, we were contacted again by the new movie's costume team. As the current official USAF supplier of the iconic A-2 leather flight jacket , we are honored to be a part of this unsurpassed piece of Naval and movie history. We can't wait to watch the premiere of "Maverick"!  

Today, we invite you to join us in brining back "that loving feeling" that can only be found when sliding one's arms into a Cockpit USA "Movie Hero" leather flight jacket!  Our creative team connected with Pilot Bruno, who shared his childhood dreams of becoming a "Top Gun Pilot" which inspired his career in aviation, and the reason why he wears our "Move Hero" Top Gun II jacket. 
1. Tell me about what inspired you to become a pilot? And your first experience holding your first set of flight controls ?

When I was 5 years old, I rode with my Dad to the São Paulo International Airport (the city I’m originally from) to drop off a friend of his that was flying home. After they said goodbye, he took me to the terrace (yes, airports still had panoramic terraces those days) and we spent hours watching planes land and takeoff. On that day, something clicked in me, and by the time I got home... I was hooked on Aviation.

I spent my entire childhood and teenage years fascinated with planes. I read books, watched thousands of videos, and spent all of my free time playing (well, “flying”) Microsoft Flight Simulator.

It wasn’t until I turned 35, that I handled the controls of a real plane for the first time, a Piper Cherokee 180. I was in the right seat, and my friend Neal had invited my wife and I for a “burger” flight. He let me have the controls for 5 minutes and once we had landed, I was convinced that it was finally time for me to pursue my childhood dream.
2. You chose the Movie Hero Top Gun II, have you seen the "Top Gun" movie? Whom did you watch it with? How was your experience and how did it inspire you?

I remember asking my Dad to rent the “Top Gun” movie every weekend! I wanted to be a "Top Gun Pilot", I watched it every single weekend with my brother—who also loves the movie to this day. 
Due to my “history” with Top Gun, the “Movie Hero” replica has always been a favorite to me. Several brands out there tried (and still try) to replicate it, but they always fall short of an actual replica. The one made by Cockpit USA is the real deal. The first time I tried it, I felt like that little kid hitting “play” on the VHS and watching the epic Top Gun intro for the first time. I think we all wanted to become Navy pilots after watching that movie!
3.  What type of pilot are you? What is it like becoming a pilot in your adult life?
I’m a Private Pilot with an Instrument rating. I must say it wasn’t easy to start a new career in my 30s… It would’ve been much easier if I was younger! But I can say with confidence that it is the best decision I have ever made 

The day I received my Private Pilot’s license, I felt this incredible feeling that I had discovered the thing that I love to do the most. There aren’t many things that can beat that feeling. 
4. Instagram vs. Real Life : How would you describe the difference between what we see online vs. your real life work as a pilot?
What you see on my Instagram is my real life. I’m not the kind of person who shows a “perfect life” on Instagram, in fact it’s quite the opposite. What you see in my pictures, videos and reels is the real Bruno: a guy who decided it wasn’t too late to pursue his dreams, who is still learning to fly and discover all of the amazing doors General Aviation can open. I share my victories, my defeats, my mistakes and even stories most wouldn’t allow themselves to share. By doing this, my content became relatable, and inspiring. When people see it, they think: “well, if he can do it, so can I.”

I get DMs from people all over the world saying my Instagram inspired them to pursue their own Aviation dreams. It means the world to me. 
5. When did you first hear about Cockpit USA?

Through my “inspirational influencers", people who were setting the tone for Aviation on social media, and motivating others like me to keep pursuing their dreams. One of them is @pilotannie (Annie Vogel), whose Instagram page has always been incredibly aspirational to me! She flies in Canada and is always sharing photos, wearing her signature Cockpit USA brown leather bomber jacket. I’ve been a fan ever since.
6. Tell us about your plane and its connection to Top Gun?

I fly a Grumman AA5A. It’s known as “Grumman Cheetah”.
Since the 1940s, Grumman had a tradition of naming its planes after felines: Wildcat, Lynx, Cheetah, Tiger… Tomcat.

That’s right. The F-14 Tomcat was built by Grumman, in their former Calverton factory, located a few miles away from where I did my flight training in Long Island, NY and near the American Airpower Museum, started by Jeff and Jacky  and also sponsored by Cockpit USA.

I learned how to fly next to the place where my favorite fighter jet was once built, I now fly it's (sort of) “distant” cousin... The Cheetah. It is much slower, of course, and doesn’t carry missiles… but in some ways, you can tell they share the same blood.  
7. What can we look forward to seeing from you in 2022?


2022 is the year that I decided to make Aviation a true lifestyle for me. My wife and I recently flew the Cheetah from New York to Lakeland, FL for Sun’n Fun, and it was an epic trip. Now we’re already planning our next adventures! I want to fly all over the country (and also to Canada and the Caribbean), and I hope to bring everyone with me through Instagram. We will be attending the Memorial Day celebration at the American Airpower Museum, and we look forward to seeing everyone there. I have some amazing adventures to explore, and I can’t wait to share!  


OFF DUTY : With Pilots Mark & Ashley Brown

 Flying high into the new year, our creative team recently caught up with Pilots Mark & Ashely Brown to discuss how growing up surrounded by Air force pilots not only sparked the love between them, but also inspired their dual career in Aviation! Read their exciting story interview below.

How did you get into flying? 

 Ashley – I grew up in a family of aviators. I am a third-generation pilot. My Grandfather flew C-46s and C-47’s during World War II over The Hump. He, sadly, passed away before I was born, but I grew up hearing all about his stories from my dad and seeing the amazing memorabilia he brought back from flying over the hump throughout India, Burma, and China. My Dad, purchased his first airplane, a Cessna 195 in his 20s. He always had a passion for anything that was vintage with a radial engine. As a baby boomer, there wasn’t a great path for him to become a professional pilot during his career. So, for him, aviation was always a passion that he did as a hobby. When I was six months old, he would put me in the back of the 195 and we would fly off to visit family or go on adventures. I guess you could say, I grew up living and breathing vintage airplanes and AvGas. When I was a teenager, my dad and I found a ’46 Piper Cub together. That eventually became the aircraft that I learned to fly in and soloed when I was 16. It was just natural that I learn to fly in a tailwheel aircraft because that was all that I knew growing up. As I became busier with high school and applying to colleges, Aviation was put on the back burner.

Mark – This one is complicated! The short version of the story is, I begin flying at age 13 after my parents gifted me a discovery flight. My dad was in the Air Force and is a Vietnam Vet. My half-brother is an Air Force Academy graduate and flew KC-135’s for the duration of his military career. Aviation was present in my family. I didn’t have many passions as a child, I played a few sports but nothing that was all-encompassing of my time. My parents were looking to fill my time with something that could be help me grow and help build my resume for college admissions. I soloed on my 16th birthday, but shortly after, I quit flying all together because it just wasn’t something I was passionate about at that time. I found new passions after high school, during my gap years, and throughout college. I didn’t really think about aviation again until a few years after I finished college. I met Ashley in college at TCU (Texas Christian University). A few months after we met, we found out that, in a previous life, we had both learned to fly. We actually had nearly identical stories, we both got to the point of soloing an airplane in high school, but for different reasons we both quit and never completed our PPL. Around our last year in college together,  she invited me to go to Houston for her Grandmother’s birthday. She told me that her dad was going to pick us up in his aircraft at the local airport. Having not thought about small airplanes in nearly a decade, it was quite a novel experience and opened my eyes to a world that I had closed off long ago. This was the first spark that got me thinking about being a pilot again. This was also the first flight that we shared together in a private aircraft. 

How did you rediscover your passion for aviation and turn it into a career? 

Mark – After graduating college, I worked in the financial world for a little while. Even though I loved finance and marketing, working in the industry was not something that I wanted to do long-term. Ashley graduated a few years after I did. Around that time, I was burnt out. I convinced Ashley that we should move to New Zealand once she graduated and be nomads, while we were young with no responsibilities. At this time, it wasn’t as common as it is today to just up and leave to become a “traveling social media influencer.” Social media was still in its infancy during this period, so we didn’t really know what we would find, but it felt like the right thing to do. 
Ashley – It wasn’t hard to convince me to move abroad. I studied in Italy during college and absolutely fell in love with travel. What better time to explore the world than when you are young, broke, and naïve to adulthood responsibilities?! We booked a one way ticket, had a working visa, and off we went. 
Mark – Once we got to New Zealand, we realized we had decided to move abroad during the depths of one of the worst global recessions the world had ever seen. Even though things will begin to get better in the US after 2008, the rest of the world was just feeling the effects of the recession when we began our travels. When the locals were not able to find work, there was not an abundance of jobs for ex-pats. This turned out to actually be one of the best things that could have happened. Since we couldn’t find much work, we decided to rent a small camper-van and see as much of New Zealand as we could before our money ran dry.  
Ashley – I always say, “It was the best trip that we never could’ve planned.”
Mark – Since we both had an aviation background, one of the things that we liked to do was visit the local airport and get to meet new people and see what kind of airplanes were based there. The beautiful thing about aviation, is no matter where you go in the world, pilots are passionate aviators and will welcome a foreign passionate aviator with open arms. We found a niche of friends that most working tourists wouldn’t have ever found. In the city where we spent most of our time, Wanaka, on the south island, we met some wonderful people that ran a local flight school and a scenic flying tour company.
Ashley - They had old vintage, World War II era airplanes which immediately attracted me. Over the course of a few weeks, we got to know them very well and were lucky enough to do some flights with them. This was the tipping point for Mark and me to really start considering aviation as a career. As money was running low, we knew that we would have to start planning our next chapter. We looked at one another and asked, “What are our passions? How can we make a passion into a career?” At that point in our life, we realized we both had been running away from aviation for over decade… Yet, it kept finding us in the most unexpected times and places. We couldn’t deny that this was for a reason… Ultimately we were passionate about aviation, the friends we had made an aviation over the years, and traveling the world and meeting new people and exploring new cultures. What better job to get to do all of these things, then becoming a Pilot? The decision for the next chapter was easy, become pilots and try and make it into a career. 
Mark – Once we were completely out of money overseas, we both moved back to Texas and jumped feet first into learning to fly and collecting our ratings. As college graduates, we had to take a few steps backwards, move back in with my in-laws to save as much money as possible, and work odd jobs to help pay for flying lessons. We were extremely lucky we had family and were awarded scholarships to help us financially. And the rest is history… here we are 10 years later living a life we never could have envisioned. 
How did you come across the Cockpit USA brand? 
Around 2013, we met a group of people in Florida at one of the large airshows. We immediately hit it off with the group and became fast friends. One of the people in the group was S. Clyman. That formed into a long-term friendship which blossomed into a healthy love of all things Cockpit USA.  
Which Cockpit USA styles do you wear? And how do you wear them? 
Mark – My favorite jacket at the moment is the Avenger G-1 Bomber Jacket. I love the vintage, worn in feel and it’s a perfectly tailored fit. In the winter months I wear my B-3 Hooded Sheepskin Bomber – there is nothing as warm, or as cool looking, as a traditional sheepskin. For everyday wear, I love the M-86 Flight Bomber Jacket – the nylon finish is durable and it’s a great weight for wearing around Texas on a regular basis. 
Ashley – On a daily basis I wear the Men’s M-86. When I’m flying or going on trips, I absolutely love my Women’s G-1 Jacket – it’s the softest leather and is perfectly fitted. When I’m flying my Piper Cub in the winter months, I love the Sapphire Blue Parka or the B-3 hooded Bomber Sheepskin – both are extremely warm and perfect for those cold, open cockpit, flying days. 
Share something about the other that they wouldn’t normally say about themselves?  
Ashley – Mark is the man of many lives. In most occasions, social media is the highlight reel of someone’s life – only the good things are shown. In Mark’s case, what people see on social media is only 30% of what he actually does. He is probably one of the few people (that are active on social media) that lives a much more interesting life than what is portrayed online (and his “online life” seems pretty great!).
Mark – Ashley is extremely humble and doesn’t publicly share much about her aviation accomplishments, but she has many. She has more tailwheel time than a lot of pilots have total time, including quite a bit of time in a Twin Beech (Beech 18). Professionally, she has amassed 6 type ratings. She was the 3nd female outside of Gulfstream to get her type rating in the GVII (G7) which is for the brand new Gulfstream G500/G600 (and eventual G700).
What can we look forward to seeing from you in 2022?
God willing, many more adventures, new airplanes, new places, new faces, and new Cockpit USA jackets!
Follow Mark & Ashley on Instagram @worldofmark & @ashley_s_atkinson


 Off Duty with Pilot Annie

I came from an adventurous family. My father was a mountaineer in the seventies and achieved many first accents in the Hindu Kush Mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan. I am of Polish decent and the first in my family born in Canada, where I live now. Growing up my parents wanted for my sisters and I to have a close relationship with my family overseas, so we travelled to Europe often. I had been on dozens of airplanes before the time I was a teenager and always loved visiting new places. My family encouraged travel and I am so lucky to have seen so much of the world from a young age.

Pilot Annie's father in the 70's

I haven’t always known what I wanted to do for a living. When I was graduating high school I wanted to pursue a career in journalism but after completing my first year of University I decided to change my career path. I graduated From the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Arts Degree and after four years of studying I wasn’t any closer to figuring out what I wanted to do for a career than when I first started.

I decided to take some time and travel abroad. I moved to New Zealand for a year where I worked as a zip-lining guide. In that time I took every chance I had to bungee jump, river board, go caving, off-roading and more. When my year visa was up I didn’t want to move home yet, so instead I moved to Australia. I found myself in a tiny town along the Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia where I began working as an Au pair, looking after two special needs boys. My house faced the outback and my backyard the sand dunes that lined the coast. Every morning I would run through the outback, through the sand dunes and make my way onto the beach. Every morning I would pass a tiny dirt strip where spotter planes would take off in search of marine life for the purpose of notifying the tour boats down in the harbor. 

One morning I was running passed a little Cessna 150 as it was taking off and that’s when I decided that I would learn to fly. I began researching flight schools back at home. Contacted different admission councillors and began to make a plan. When I returned home, adjusting to real life was difficult. I had been so far removed from the hustle and bustle that I didn’t feel as though I fit in any longer. I went on my first discovery flight and started my flight training right away. Aside from being passionate about flying and learning about aviation it was also an outlet for me to continue experiencing the world and seeing it from a different perspective even at home.

I completed my private pilot license and received the news that my father had been diagnosed with ALS. Traditionally this diagnosis comes with a year and a half life expectancy. I was so scared of continuing into my commercial license from fear that this career would take me far away from where I needed to be. I decided to postpone my commercial training and began working full time while staying close to home.

Despite putting my aviation career aspirations on hold I continued to fly for fun as much as possible. A few months after I completed my private license an acquaintance of mine asked if I would be interested in flying with his grandfather, an 80 year old pilot, with a heart condition. I jumped at the opportunity and his grandfather and I have been friends ever since. I have flown 100 hours in his Piper Tripacer and we have gone on so many adventures together.

Shortly before my father passed away I decided to pursue my commercial license. The journey has been long and fraught with hurdles but I am happy to announce that all my requirements are met, my written exam is complete and now I wait for my airplane to get back from its panel upgrade so that I can complete my flight test. Aviation has been an incredibly rewarding path, I have met so many wonderful people and have experienced some unbelievable moments and I am so excited for what’s to come.

Pilot Annie Wearing Cockpit USA's Women's Raider Jacket
Pilot Annie wearing Cockpit USA's Women's Raider Jacket

There is a certain level of romance associated with the Cockpit USA brand. It's authentic, American crafted heritage pieces are a part of aviation history. In my eyes, the feeling I get when I put on a Cockpit USA coat is priceless. There is a certain level of pride and excitement I feel when pulling my hands through the cuffs. I am confident and poised, ready to step out into the world and achieve my dreams like my idols did before me. For all of these reasons I decided to partner with this incredible company and I will continue to support and represent them because I believe in the product, and I believe in Cockpit USA.


Off Duty With Pilot Jack Ryan

Introducing Pilot Brand Ambassador, Jack Ryan

One of the greater pleasures about producing military garments is that these designs are rooted in history. Each piece tells a unique story about the idivudal who wears it. Our creative team recently connected with Pilot Jack Ryan to delve into his adventures on becoming a Commercial Pilot and the heritage that led him to his career up in the skies. In his words please read his story below…

 Pilot Jack Ryan

I was lucky enough to be raised in an environment where I was surrounded by pilots. My Dad flies 787’s internationally for American Airlines and was a helicopter pilot in the Marines. My grandfather was a two-star General in the Marines and a pilot himself. He flew pretty much every aircraft imaginable. He received a purple heart for being shot down in the military, breaking his leg, and making it back with his crew alive. Two of my uncles were fighter pilots and became Top Gun instructors. One of them would go on to be a Blue Angel pilot as well. I have an aunt who is a corporate pilot and she flies private jets out of the class delta airport in my hometown. So it is pretty clear to see where my inspiration came from.

Pilot Ryan as an Infant 

I grew up attending airshows regularly and hearing all sorts of stories. I thought this was normal and that every kid had this experience. I remember as a young kid watching my uncle perform amazing maneuvers with the Blue Angels where he was treated as a superstar. It was fascinating to be surrounded by this during my childhood, and as a kid I often took it for granted. I thought flying was amazing, but never really considered it as a career until I was much older.

 Infant Jack Ryan with Father

Fast forward to college, I was planning on becoming a dentist. I always inspected people's smiles and I thought that this interest could lead to a career. That was until I started at university with biology and chemistry classes. I then calculated how many years of school I would need to complete to fulfill my dreams of becoming a dentist. While taking time off from school to reevaluate my future plans, I looked to my father and it clicked... he gets paid to travel the world while being home most of the month! I quickly switched majors and decided after I finished my degree that I would enroll in flight school. After graduation, I worked with my dad on finding a competent flight school in my area. I knew that I was not ready to leave San Diego just yet and wanted to do my flight training at home. I enrolled at ATP Flight School because of the speed of their program. Since, I have finished my private pilot license, Instrument add-on, Commercial license, and recently became a certified flight instructor.

 Pilot Ryan in his one engine plane wearing Cockpit USA's Suede Trucker JacketPilot Jack Ryan wearing Cockpit USA's Suede Trucker Jacket


Cockpit USA and I first crossed paths while I was scrolling through pages that featured aviation content. I discovered that they have been supplying the US government since 1980. I wondered if any of my family members had worn their products while they served. They also produce their jackets in the United States which is important to me. Their jackets remind me of spending time with family seeing my grandfather in his old leather jacket or my Uncle returning from Kuwait wearing his bomber jacket. Wearing Cockpit USA’s jackets bring me a sense of patriotism and confidence due to their background and attention to detail.


I wear the suede trucker and love it for everyday use. You can dress it up or down and the color goes well with everything. This jacket caught my eye from the start, it’s a type of style of jacket that can be worn in a multitude of ways. The suede is also the softest material that you will ever feel and is beyond comfortable to wear around town, flying, or just hanging out. 

Pilot Jack Ryan wearing the Suede Trucker
Pilot Jack Ryan wearing Cockpit USA's Suede Trucker Jacket 

Last but certainly not least, the A-2 Anniversary jacket really reminds me of my grandfather's leather jacket that he would wear around the house when I was a young boy. Every time I put it on, I remember how lucky we are to live in this country and how grateful I am for all the men and women who have served our country. You can't beat the look of it either. The A-2 leather jacket to me, is the classic pilot’s jacket. Perfect for those colder morning flights or even worn inside an open cockpit aircraft.

Pilot Ryan wearing the 40th Anniversary A-2 Jacket
Pilot Jack Ryan wearing Cockpit USA's 40th Anniversary A-2 Flight Jacket

While I still have a few more ratings to finish up before becoming an instructor full-time, I’m glad I took a step back to evaluate what I really wanted to pursue as a career. I could not be happier with the choice that I made and I look forward to what the future holds. I’ll be seeing you in the skies.


 Off Duty with Pilot Clément :

Earlier this week we came across Pilot Clément wearing our collector's edition Ace's & Eights bomber jacket on Instagram. We just had to find out more...  please read our recent Q & A with WWII Reenactor Pilot Clément from from Arras, France.

Cockpit USA: What inspired you to become a pilot? What type of Pilot are you? 

Pilot Clément: As far as I can remember, I have always been interested in aeronautics. Seeing the world from above is something that always fascinated me. It forces you to be humble and to see life differently. I fly twin-engined airplanes for work.

On my Free Time, I like to fly over the countryside and historic monuments with my family. I typically fly a 1944 Piper L4 left in France by the US forces after ww2.

 I am a ww2 reenactor, this period has completely modified the faces of all countries involved and I have always been grateful for the sacrifices made by so many men and women during this conflict. I am very attached to the friendship between the French and the American people, so I decided to pay tribute to the men of the US forces by reenacting some of them.

Clément wearing our Cockpit USA Aces & Eights Flight Jacket Z21V029

 Cockpit USA: How did you come across Cockpit USA?  

Pilot Clément: I needed an A-2 jacket to complete my USAAF pilot impression, I love the A-2 and G-1 vintage styles, with squadrons leather patches, Pin up girls or writings in the back. I also think that Field and Deck jackets look really cool and I plan to get one soon!

Cockpit USA: How do you wear your Cockpit USA jacket? 

Pilot Clément: I usually wear my jacket with dark or beige trousers and sneakers. I like to have a casual /vintage style on weekends. Every time it gets a bit cold outside, I wear my Cockpit USA jacket to fly, it feels really warm and it allows me to fly with the lateral door open! (Which is the real way to fly a Piper L4!!)

Front and back view of Cockpit USA's Aces & Eights Flight Jacket Z21V029

Cockpit USA: Where are you flying to next? Do you have Instagram? Is there anything special you would like us to know? 

Pilot Clément: In the future I aim to keep on living my passion for flying and reenacting. I also hope to be able to come back to the USA soon!

To conclude I like Cockpit USA jackets because they are really good looking, and I am keen on their high quality!

Follow our Pilot Clément at @willyshelmets.