Glenn Gonzales: Not Your Typical CEO
Updated: Aug 25, 2022
by Devyn Imholt
Glenn Gonzales is a certified pilot, military veteran, businessman, aviation industry expert, community leader, and founder/CEO of the private jet company Jet It. Along with its European partner Jet Club, Jet It has been on the cutting edge of “redefining luxury travel.” I had the pleasure of speaking to Glenn about his upbringing, his life, and his unique ideas that culminated in this game-changing company.
Glenn was raised in Houston, Texas where he grew up with his parents and older sister. Even from a young age, Glenn excelled both academically and athletically. Glenn played sports for almost all of his academic career, making school and sports “one in the same.” Glenn attended Eisenhower High School where he was lettered in three varsity sports; track, cross country, and basketball. Glenn played point guard where he found his greatest attribute was “distributing,” or “passing the rock.” “I would rather make the assist because then two people are smiling and the team is doing better.”
Glenn was exceptional in the classroom as well, being in the Gifted & Talented program as well as acting as the VP of the National Honor’s Society. Even with all of these activities, Glenn still found time to become the president of an organization at his church. Glenn had taken his first commercial flight when he was only five years old. This instilled an affinity for flight that was only re-affirmed by the times in which he grew up (the space race, Superman, and Star Wars were all prominent media surrounding the skies). “I just loved looking up.”
By the time Glenn graduated from Eisenhower, he had formulated two goals: he wanted to play division one college basketball and he wanted to learn how to pilot a plane. Glenn enlisted in the United States Air Force Academy to successfully pursue both of his goals. Glenn continued to play point guard where he excelled as a defensive-minded, pass-first player, citing UNLV, Utah, and BYU as being some of his most memorable games. However, things would not come as naturally for him when it came to becoming a pilot.
When Glenn first attended the academy there was a rule that pilots had to have perfect 20/20 vision in order to fly. Upon his initial medical examination, he was told that his vision wasn’t 20/20 and that he would never be able to become a pilot. Despite this disappointing news, Glenn continued to work towards his dreams. He decided that if he couldn’t fly a plane, he would instead turn to designing and improving them. Eventually, by the time Glenn graduated the rules had been changed, providing him with an opportunity to fly.
All he needed was the opportunity. Glenn quickly ascended to the top of his class, becoming the first one in his class to pilot a plane by himself. After perfecting his own skills, he went on to become an instructor pilot. In his first year of instructing, Glenn was named the instructor pilot of the year at his base, including 460 others. His time as a student, athlete, and pilot in the academy instilled in him important time management, delegation, and communication skills, as well as improving upon his vigorous work ethic. Being an instructor taught him how to be an “effective and efficient communicator,” as teaching left little room for error.
Glenn described his time after the military as “defining.” Glenn now found himself with two children and a wife to support right at the height of the economic downturn. He “had to set sights on values,” deciding to go back to school in order to transition himself into the world of sales. His work ethic truly shined as he had seven things going at once: being a husband, being a father, starting an MBA at the University of South Carolina, finishing his Master’s in Aeronautical Sciences at the renowned Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, working full-time as a defense contractor, working full-time at Gulf Stream, and remaining in the USAF reserves.
This period of hard work allowed Glenn to reposition himself from being an accomplished pilot to someone who could effectively sell planes. This period of hard work eventually paid off, resulting in an opportunity for Glenn to become a Regional Sales Manager with the Honda Aircraft Company. While at Honda, Glenn began working with longtime colleague Vishal Hiremath to formulate a concept for an industry-changing business. This culminated in the founding of Jet It and Jet Club.
Jet It’s unique business model has since revolutionized private aviation. Jet It allows its owners to own a share of a plane, giving them the opportunity to have the plane for entire days rather than the typical method of paying per flight hour. This gives the customers a unique opportunity to use the planes for whatever they may want on the days they have them. Such a unique idea was not initially embraced and was even questioned. Glenn was confident and knew that this business would be impactful, deciding to invest heavily even as the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
This ended up being a game-changing move as the private aviation industry saw a 30% increase after the pandemic. With Glenn and Vishal leading the way, Jet It and Jet Club have quickly become key players in the private aviation industry. Even for being a young company, Glenn has already received recognition and numerous awards for the impact that Jet It has already made. Glenn and Vishal were given the prestigious Ernest and Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2021 Southeast Award, an award that has previously been given to owners of corporate giants like Starbucks and LinkedIn. Adding to his own Top Gun Honors and other military awards, Glenn was recently awarded the Brigadier Charles E. McGee Aviation Inspiration Award for Jet It’s industry-changing efforts, an award named after the former Tuskegee Airman, who was Glenn’s personal friend and mentor.
Glenn is not easily satisfied with personal success. Like in his point guard days, Glenn is all about providing opportunities. Aside from dedicating time to his business and family, Glenn is proud to be a spokesperson for the Make-A-Wish Foundation and a program coordinator for Special Olympics. He also holds board member positions at Big Brothers Big Sisters Greensboro, American Heroes for North Carolina, Launch Greensboro, and the Industry Advisory Council for the National Business Aviation Association. Glenn is someone who stays in the moment, taking things one flight at a time, prioritizing the safety of his passengers and the well-being of his employees. He described to me that even as the CEO, he will fill in as a pilot so that his employees can have time off.
Glenn Gonzales is not your typical CEO. Glenn grew up without any familial or personal connection to the aviation industry and has become a leader in revolutionizing the business. His days as a point guard and a pilot have instilled in him important leadership skills that he is using to help his company be the best it could possibly be. Jet It is still a new company but despite its age, it has already begun to change and impact the aviation landscape. With Glenn in the captain’s seat, you can be assured that Jet It will be a powerful company for a long time to come.