© 2019 The Aviation Speaker's Bureau

Brian Udell on Stage

Speaker Biography

Brian Udell

Supersonic Survivor, Inspirational, Motivational, Safety

   Hanging in the straps of his parachute and feeling the cold night air on his face, Brian Udell felt as if a freight train had collided with his body. As he struggled to inflate his life preserver before plunging into the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean, he realized it had shredded with the force of the supersonic windblast. With his teeth and one functioning arm, Brian feverishly retrieved a one-man life raft that hung from a fifteen-foot lanyard off his right hip only seconds before entering the water. After popping back to the surface like a bobber on fishing line, the saltwater made him painfully aware of the open wounds, cuts, and scrapes that were strewn over his broken body. The thought of blood pouring into the water inviting sharks for a late-night meal motivated him to attempt to get into the partially inflated raft. As he kicked his legs, Brian's lower limbs felt as though only a thread attached them. Exhausted and unable to enter the raft thoughts of death quickly consumed his mind. Knowing he would be unable to survive the night under the extreme conditions, Brian began to pray. The next several hours of survival and the many months of excruciating rehabilitation deliver an almost unbelievable story. Brian holds the record for surviving the highest speed ejection from a U.S. Fighter Aircraft at nearly 800 M.P.H. He survived four grueling hours 65 miles off the Atlantic Coast in 60-degree water, 5-foot seas, and 15 M.P.H. winds at night. Brian's determination, perseverance, faith, and sheer will to survive is unparalleled. His story of survival, recovery, and return to the Strike Eagle is an inspiration to everyone.

   Brian began flying at age nine, took his first cross-country flight at age ten, soloed at age 16, and received his Private Pilots Certificate at age 17. Since that time he has accumulated over 21,000 hours in a variety of both civil and military aircraft. In 1988, Brian was one of only 60 candidates selected to attend the elite Euro-NATO Joint Pilot Training program. He graduated number one in his class and was awarded the Air Training Command - Commanders Trophy.  Brian was among the initial group of Lieutenants selected to fly the F-15E Strike Eagle. He graduated from Strike Eagle training and received the top academic award with an overall average of 99.8%.

Brian went on to his operational units where he became an Instructor, Mission Commander, and Air to Ground Top Gun winner. He has flown over 100 combat missions in Southwest Asia and logged nearly 2000 hours in the Strike Eagle.

Brian received the Air Medal with 4 oak leaf clusters and the Aerial Achievement Medal with three oak leaf clusters for combat missions over Iraq. His military career spanned ten years. Brian left the Air Force in 1999 and he is currently a Captain with Southwest Airlines, a Competition Aerobatic Pilot, and a Motivational and Inspirational Speaker.

***

   Hanging in the straps of his parachute and feeling the cold night air on his face, Brian Udell felt as if a freight train had collided with his body. As he struggled to inflate his life preserver before plunging into the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean, he realized it had shredded with the force of the supersonic windblast. With his teeth and one functioning arm, Brian feverishly retrieved a one-man life raft that hung from a fifteen-foot lanyard off his right hip only seconds before entering the water. After popping back to the surface like a bobber on fishing line, the saltwater made him painfully aware of the open wounds, cuts, and scrapes that were strewn over his broken body. The thought of blood pouring into the water inviting sharks for a late-night meal motivated him to attempt to get into the partially inflated raft. As he kicked his legs, Brian’s lower limbs felt as though only a thread attached them. Exhausted and unable to enter the raft thoughts of death quickly consumed his mind. Knowing he would be unable to survive the night under the extreme conditions, Brian began to pray. The next several hours of survival and the many months of excruciating rehabilitation deliver an almost unbelievable story. Brian holds the record for surviving the highest speed ejection from a U.S. Fighter Aircraft at nearly 800 M.P.H. He survived four grueling hours 65 miles off the Atlantic Coast in 60-degree water, 5-foot seas, and 15 M.P.H. winds at night. Brian’s determination, perseverance, faith, and sheer will to survive is unparalleled. His story of survival, recovery, and return to the Strike Eagle is an inspiration to everyone.

 

Program Topics

 

Program Title: Supersonic Survivor

This talk is appropriate for any group. Audiences love Brian Udell.

 

Brian’s determination, perseverance, faith, and sheer will to survive is unparalleled. This might be one of the most inspirational talks you will ever hear. His message is of safety, importance of training, practice, teamwork, communication and never giving up.

 

Brian does an excellent job of customizing this program for every group. Each talk produces future bookings from the audience—this says it all. A university had him return 18 months later to do the same talk again. His message is that powerful.

 

Though the room is hushed when Brian speaks, they burst out laughing often because of his wonderful sense of humor. Lost at sea—surely to die, grossly mangled—in terrible pain, Brian cracks jokes on himself. Though Brian is one of aviation’s crème la crème, he is humble and down to earth.

 

“I was afraid to make a change in my life, but after hearing you today, I’m going to do it.”
Attendee

 

Three most heard comments after Brian’s talk:
Fantastic - Inspirational - Best speaker ever heard

 

Clients Comments

"Brian did a fabulous job for us, as I knew he would. We thank him for re-living a tough life experience with us; he is a true pro. He did a super job, as evidenced by the fan approval following his talk."
D. Gates, South Dakota Bankers Assn.

 

"Brian Udell is a true gentleman and an inspiration to anyone who has faced adversity. His presentation is sincere, passionate and a highly charged emotional experience for anyone who has the privilege of sharing it with him. He shared his story on a very sincere and personal level as he re-lived his most grievous experiences and loss of a good friend. His sense of humor is incredible considering the story he is telling. Brian is not a fame-seeking public speaker, he is however an exceptional speaker who fate has selected to deliver a message that we should all hear at least once in a life time. For the record - he received three standing ovations and then spent another hour or so one to one with various members of our group. An exceptional individual, worth the price, the time and the wait -- without question. Should anyone ask for a personal reference or report on Brian, I would be more than happy for you to give them my contact information."
Ian Basson, Canadian Owners & Pilots Association, National Convention 2008

 

"Brian Udell was the perfect fit for our opening keynote address for our annual convention and the audience gave him a standing ovation. His presentation was absolutely terrific and many bankers commented that he was one of the best speakers they've ever heard. Brian's story is amazing and he tells it exceptionally well. In addition, he's a great guy and was easy to work with. High recommendation!”

Dorothy Lick, North Dakota Bankers Association

 

"Brian Udell kept us spellbound for 45 minutes. You could hear a pin drop, except when he made everyone laugh. The story of his four-hour ordeal was gripping and moving. He certainly won the audience."

T. Karr, President, Carolina Aero Club“

 

“The best speaker we have ever had.”

Fortune 100 Company

 

“I’ve conducted radio interviews for many years and Brian Udell was one of the very best guests I have ever had on my radio program. I originally invited him to do a 10-minute segment. He was such a spellbinding guest that I asked him to stay to do the full two-hour show. Our listeners loved every minute of it. His cliff-hanging story is dramatic and inspiring. He is one of America’s finest.”

Preston Westmoreland, Arizona Radio Talk Show Host

 

“Brian was fantastic and according to our client, ‘The best speaker we've ever had.’ Thank you so much for recommending him because he truly made the events a success.”

Risa Strawhecker, SKAR Advertising Agency for Hospital Open House

 

“The general consensus of Brian’s excellent presentation was described on the critiques as: EXCELLENT, SPELL BOUNDING, INFORMATIVE, OUTSTANDING, BEST I'VE HEARD IN 25 YEARS and on and on.... I'm sure you have heard all of them before.”

Sergeant Kym Mitchell, EMS Coordinator, Air Operations Section –064

“Fabulous. Nothing but raves. Could have heard a pin drop on the carpet. You’d be hard-pressed to find a nicer gentleman.”

Sandi Decker, Nebraska Aviation Symposium

 

“Capt. Udell's (3) presentations were outstanding and real crowd pleasers! We had excellent feedback from all the employees that were interviewed about his presentation. We will have a tough time finding a comparable speaker for next year's meeting. In the many years we have been conducting this annual meeting, his presentation stands out as most memorable!”
Scott Paris, Nevada Power Company

 

“Awesome! The only word that comes to mind. What a guy and what a story! I know Brian will be the talk of Montana for many years to come. A real class act.”

Debbie Alke, MTDOT

 

“Wow Diane - you certainly weren't exaggerating about Brian Udell - I'm still thinking about him and his story and each time I do it brings tears to my eyes. What an amazing story - amazing man!! He had some big shoes to fill and did more than fill them. I've heard nothing but great comments from everyone.”

Patty Kautz, Conference Co-ord MTDOT

 

“Awesome! The only word that comes to mind. What a guy and what a story! Brian will be the talk of "Montana" for many years to come. A real class act.”

D. Alke, Admin. MTDOT

 

“Excellent, exceptional speaker. Couldn’t have been better.

SFC Houck, Operational Support Airlift Agencies, U.S. Army

 

“Brian was fabulous. He did such a great job. Loved what he had to say, and how he said it. He received three standing ovations for his program.”

Sherry Frazier, City of Palmdale. Appreciation dinner for 4 major aircraft manufacturers

 

Additional Information


Former pilot tells how he survived ejection from jet, struggle at sea. Desire to see wife, child spurred Pillars speaker to defy odds of survival
By ERIC FRY - JUNEAU EMPIRE © 2003

 

Ejected from a fighter plane into the cold Atlantic Ocean at night, his body broken, fighting 5-foot seas and 17-mph winds, and exhausted trying to climb into a life raft, U.S. Air Force Capt. Brian Udell's thoughts turned to his pregnant wife and death.

 

"If I don't get into this raft I will not see the light of the next day," Udell told a rapt audience Wednesday afternoon in Centennial Hall at the Pillars of America Freedom lecture series, hosted by the Glacier Valley Rotary Club.

 

Udell was on a night training mission in April 1995 over the Atlantic when he had to eject from his F-15E. Four fighters from Seymour-Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina had paired off to simulate an engagement.

 

As Udell, in a plane also carrying weapons system officer Capt. Dennis White, turned the F-15E in an arc, an electronic indicator showed the plane was plunging to Earth at nearly 800 mph. Udell and White ejected when the plane was less than 6,000 feet from the ocean.

The Air Force tells pilots the minimum altitude to eject is 10,000 feet.


"The force of the wind at 800 mph is so great it's like being hit by a freight train," Udell said.

 

Udell's helmet, oxygen mask, earplugs and gloves were blown off by the force. His life preserver was in tatters. The blood vessels in his face were broken. A harness buckle impaled his ribs.

 

His left arm was dislocated, but after he parachuted onto the water he was able to reel in the rubber life raft, part of a survival package that followed him down, with his right arm and inch his way into it. He realized then that his right leg and left ankle were badly hurt.

"The top half of my legs went one way, and the bottom half went the other," he said.

 

Shaking uncontrollably and facing shock, Udell managed to fully inflate the raft, including a tent-like cover. It took two hours. He also found a bottle of water in a rucksack, which helped revive him. At every step it was a monumental effort to overcome the limits of his broken body.

Udell spent four hours on the water before a Coast Guard helicopter found him via his emergency radio. He learned later that White had been killed instantly during the ejection.

 

The Air Force later told Udell no one had survived an ejection at that speed from an American fighter aircraft, and that he probably wouldn't walk correctly again.

 

After four surgeries, Udell began the long process of physical therapy. Two months later he could take his first step. Udell would fly again for the Air Force, from which he retired in 1999 and joined Southwest Airlines.

 

Udell told the audience, including dozens of students whose admission was sponsored by local companies, that it was desire, determination, discipline and answered prayers that saved him.

 

"It was an unbelievable situation I was thrown in," he said. "I'm an ordinary guy. ... I just didn't want to die. I wanted to see my wife. I wanted to see my baby born."

 

Tom Meiners, an eighth-grader at Floyd Dryden Middle School, said the speech was "very motivational. How did he pull himself into that raft?"

 

"I think it was pretty amazing what he did," said Philip Derbesy, a sixth-grader at Juneau Christian School.

 

"Just to see his baby born," JCS seventh-grader John Love-rink added.

 

Udell was the first of three speakers in this year's Pillars series.