Brothers soar to new heights in Breeze’s inaugural Provo flight
When two pilots strap in together for a flight, it’s vital to have trust — trust not just in the plane, but also in each other. Luckily, in brothers Matt and Doug Browne, Breeze Airways couldn’t have picked two pilots with a better connection for the company’s inaugural flight out of the Provo Airport.
Having grown up in Orem, and living now in Lehi, the Brownes were quick to ask the company for the privilege to fly on the inaugural flight.
“We asked them about it a month ago, maybe month and a half ago,” Doug Browne said.
“I emailed our CEO, David Neeleman, and I was like, ‘Hey, my brother and I have been with you from the beginning. Any chance we can do that first flight out of Provo?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it,’ and then we were like, ‘Yes!” Matt Browne added.
Asking nicely certainly helped the Brownes get the first flight, but the two have earned their places with Breeze. Matt was one of the first pilots to join the airline and already helped establish its services in Tampa, Florida. Doug joined the company last year, flying previously out of New Orleans, Norfolk, Virginia, and Hartford, Connecticut.
With the renovation to the Provo airport nearly complete, the Cottonwood Heights-based Breeze announced in May that it would be making a home base in Utah County.
“When we heard about Provo, we were like, ‘Yes! I can’t believe this is happening!'” Matt Browne said, with his brother adding that it was just nice to be back on the West Coast and to finally “come home.”
On hand for the takeoff were the brothers’ parents, and they also ran into Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi, with all more than happy to take photos and share in the day’s festivities.
At every stop on the first run of the route from Provo to San Francisco to San Bernardino and back on Thursday, Breeze President Tom Doxey made a point to mention the Brownes sitting in the cockpit, calling it a “really, really neat experience for them.”
As for the flights themselves, Matt served as captain while Doug was the first officer, though both are captains by rank. Over the months, thanks to call-outs and schedule swaps, the Brownes have worked in the cockpit together before, but that didn’t make the occasion any less special.
“To captain an airliner out of Provo … I never thought that would happen in my lifetime,” Matt Browne said. And the fact that it “happened to have me (as) the first captain flying out of there was surreal.”
The ceremonial spray-down from the fire department was a grand mid-point in the Browne brothers’ atmospheric adventures. Doug began his flight training in 2001 and has flown commercial aircraft for seven years while Matt has worked with airlines longer, beginning in 2010.
Both brothers also stayed home for higher education, doing their flight training as students at Utah Valley University. They learned how to fly using trainer airplanes out of a radically different airport.
But even with stronger engines, more passengers and every other imaginable change, the action stays the same, they say.
“When you’re in a trainer (and) you’re doing like 80 miles an hour, to doing over 200 miles an hour now climbing three or four times faster, it’s just a whole different feeling,” Doug said. “But still, it’s the same route, same structure. Just a whole lot faster and a whole lot steeper. It’s a lot of fun.”
The Brownes aren’t the only ones, though, who get to drive home after a long day in the skies. The flight attendants and crews with Breeze are also based in the area.
Both brothers expressed their hopes that more and more locals will work with Breeze in the future and maintain the bonds between the company and the county.
“UVU, they still have a great flight school there — changed a lot since we were there. We’re excited to be part of that. Hopefully more of those UVU pilots will join Breeze and stay in the community,” Doug Browne said.
That encouragement comes with frequent and ringing praise for the young airline. Only 15 months into existence, Breeze is still pushing itself into the general public with its branding of “seriously nice” and the Browne brothers want people to know it’s not just a slogan, it really is that nice.
Plus, they love the accessibility it offers to locals.
“To see people who would have to work a lot harder, people from Utah Valley for example, that have to go up to Salt Lake, Salt Lake is — no offense to Salt Lake — but it’s kind of a pain to get in and out of,” Matt Browne said. “To see people in smaller communities like this get service and access the places they want to go quickly, efficiently and really easily. … That ease of use is just a blessing.”
It was far from the first time these two will radio a tower side-by-side, and it certainly won’t be the last time, but it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The hometown kids are ready to stay with Breeze for the long haul. Thursday was like a sugar high, Doug Browne said, with adrenaline and fanfare.
But the most rewarding part, they agreed, is getting to clock in every day and provide a service they care deeply about to their own community.
Nobody knows exactly what the future may hold, but only the sky is the limit.