F-16 Fighting Falcon News

Science teacher flies with Thunderbirds

April 23, 2012 (by Maja Stevanovich) - An award winning Bossier City teacher got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fly with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds during the 2012 Barksdale Air Force Base Defenders of Liberty Air Show Saturday.

Thunderbirds pilot, Capt. Michael Fisher, presents Elizabeth Vance, Cope Middle School 7th Grade science teacher, an autographed aerial team photo at Barksdale AFB on April 21st, 2012. Vance, who received the title of Hometown Hero for being the best middle school teacher in Louisiana was given the opportunity to fly with a Thunderbirds pilot. [USAF photo A1C. Benjamin Gonsier]

Elizabeth Vance, a science teacher at Cope Middle School, was offered the chance to fly with the Thunderbirds, and represent the local community as the hometown hero, after being selected as the 2011-2012 Louisiana Science Teachers Association's Outstanding Middle School Science Teacher.

"This has been an amazing experience every step of the way and I have been amazed by everyone's kindness, and am just incredibly humbled and honored to have been given this opportunity," said Vance.

The honorary co-pilot said she will incorporate what she learned during the pre-flight medical briefings into her lessons on human body systems, health and some other environmental topics she teaches.

"I will also use this experience as an opportunity to encourage my female students that the sky truly is the limit when it comes to what they want to be and do in life," Vance added.

Growing up in a military family, Vance was especially excited to share the experience with her father, a retired Air Force major.

"I am so excited for Elizabeth to have the opportunity to be in the cockpit of an Air Force aircraft like the F-16," said retired Major Gene Weitzel. "The experience she will take away from this and be able to share with her students and peers is priceless. I am proud of what she already has and continues to accomplish in her life. Having been in the military myself, it is exciting to see her get a chance to get up close and personal with the aircraft.."

Although she grew up in a military family, Vance doesn't have as many opportunities to interact with Airmen as she'd like. She was honored to speak with the Thunderbirds and Barksdale Airmen.

"I am so thankful for everything they do each and every day," Vance said. "This experience was truly humbling."

Vance's 60-minute orientation flight included some of the classic Thunderbirds aerial demonstration aircraft maneuvers. The flight took place over Bossier City and allowed Vance, a Louisiana native, to see some familiar sights. .

"That was truly a once in a lifetime experience, but I am excited to go back to the classroom," Vance said. "I can't wait to tell my students about it."

Courtesy of 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs

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Thunderbirds pilot Capt. Michael Fisher and Elizabeth Vance, Cope Middle School 7th grade science teacher, wave goodbye before taking off from Barksdale AFB on April 21st, 2012. [USAF photo A1C. Benjamin Gonsier]