Charlie “V+12” VandenBossche is a native of southeastern Michigan, born in Detroit and raised in Mt. Clemens, just north of Detroit. Charlie was nominated for an Air Force scholarship upon high school graduation for engineering. He packed his belongings and moved to Daytona Beach, Florida where he attended Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. He majored in aeronautical engineering and eventually became the cadet wing commander of his ROTC detachment. While at Embry Riddle, Charlie fell in love with powered flight and quickly earned his private pilot’s license and the opportunity to swap his engineering scholarship for a pilot scholarship in his junior year of college. Upon graduation, Charlie was awarded a coveted Air Force pilot training slot at Sheppard Air Force Base, TX as one of our nation’s US student pilots at the Euro Nato Joint Jet Pilot Training (ENJJPT) program.
During the ENJJPT program Charlie became proficient in flying the T-37 “Tweet” and the T-38 “Talon.” He flew with instructors from over 13 different NATO countries. Upon graduation, and after earning his silver wings, Charlie was selected to remain as an ENJJPT T-38 instructor pilot. After only six months of instructing students, Charlie was then handpicked to be an instructor’s instructor, one of the few T-38 Pilot Instructor Training pilots. Amassing over 1,500 hours of flight in the “white rocket” in just over three years with students and instructors from around the world, Charlie was awarded first choice of aircraft from his selection board. There were no fighters available on the assignment board, so he selected the fastest and most challenging aircraft he could find, the mighty B-1 “Bone.”
Charlie traveled a few miles south for B-1 training at Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, Texas, where he earned recognition as outstanding graduate in his B-1 ground and flight-training course. After that, he drove north to Wichita, Kansas, where he flew the B-1 as a new wingman and eventually led up to 85 different aircraft in multi-national training exercises in Cold Lake, Canada.
The 28th Bomb Squadron at McConnell AFB turned its B-1s over to the Air National Guard within just over a year of Charlie’s arrival, so he packed up and drove north to the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota and reported in to the 37th Bomb at Ellsworth AFB. Charlie spent over five years in and around Rapid City, South Dakota flying light civilian aircraft, four wheeling in the Black Hills, and working with the Civil Air Patrol to assist in search and rescue missions. Those five years were busy with several deployments around the world. Charlie deployed to RAF Fairford in the United Kingdom where he led several combat exercises throughout Europe to include the first B-1 flight over the skies of the former East Germany. He also deployed to Oman and Bahrain where he led the first ever B-1 combat mission into Iraq, and several months later found himself flying three hours with an engine failure over the Mediterranean and safely diverting to Aviano Air Base, Italy. This was the first time a B-1 had ever landed at Aviano Air Base.
During his time at Ellsworth AFB, Charlie was selected for, and graduated from, The USAF Weapons School. Shortly afterwards, he became a test and evaluation pilot for the 53rd Wing. As an operational test and evaluation pilot, Charlie tested several offensive and defensive systems that he would use only a year later in the missile-filled skies over Kosovo during Operation Allied Force. Charlie led strikes against military targets in Kosovo and Serbia night after night. In addition to Air Medals, he earned The Distinguished Flying Cross during a hair-raising night strike near the City of Novi Sad. An F-16 was lost….
A year after Operation Allied Force, Charlie left the active duty Air Force to fly the F-16 “Viper” in the Air National Guard (ANG) with the 188FW in Ft. Smith, Arkansas. He was also hired as an airline pilot flying the DC-9 for Northwest Airlines. He was only able to fly briefly for Northwest Airlines when he was called off to F-16 training. It was during F-16 training in Tucson, Arizona that the 9/11 strikes took place on the United States. The Airlines quickly furloughed pilots. Charlie was lucky enough to have his part-time ANG position flying the Viper. The 188FW eventually deployed to Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia, where Charlie once again led combat missions over Iraq.
Within less than a year, Charlie was forced to find full-time employment after budget cuts forced yet another round of military cuts. He found a military job directing fighter defensive orbits over the United States as a member of the ANG Crisis Action Team at Andrews AFB. He eventually found additional employment service in the ANG for the ANG headquarters in Crystal City, VA and at The Pentagon.
After over five years in the Washington DC area and 22 years in the military, Charlie retired and quickly earned a position on the F-35 Integration Test and Evaluation team at Naval Air Station, Patuxent River as a human systems engineer. He is responsible for Joint Strike Fighter pilot interface on both the F-35B and F-35C. In his free time, Charlie flies with Nalls Aviation. Charlie is currently flying a 1939 Piper “Cub”, an L-39 “Albatross,” a YAK-52TW, and a Cessna C-182.
Over his many years of flying, Charlie has amassed over 1,500 hours flying the T-38, over 1,500 flying the B-1, over 500 hours flying the F-16 and many more hours flying the DC-9, F-15, F-18, L-39, A-29, C-172, Piper Cub, and more.