Watching military airplanes successfully take off and land can be fascinating. Can you imagine being the technician responsible for the proper functioning of that aircraft-- everything from the landing gear and brakes to weapons and flight controls?! That specialty is exactly what Staff Sergeant Andrew “Andy” Brignoli did as he proudly served in the United States Air Force from 1966 to 1970 as an Aircraft and Pneumatic System Technician. “Watching pilots take off and return safely in the aircraft that I worked on were my most memorable moments,” recalls Andy.
After the military, and then college, Andy went to work for General Electric (GE). GE quickly recognized his technical capabilities and entrusted him to oversee the development of an engine that would ultimately be used in the F-16 aircraft. In 1988, GE selected Andy for the prestigious “Sloan Fellowship” program where he earned his Master’s Degree from Stanford University.
It was during this program where Andy met classmate, Steve Sliwa. From there, Andy and Steve were two of eight men involved in “garage shop”discussions that evolved into a high-tech start-up company, Insitu. Andy recalls, “We started Insitu virtually from scratch in 2002. We had an unfinished design and no market.” This labor of love resulted in an unmanned aerial vehicle known as, “ScanEagle.” Interestingly, the historic ScanEagle aircraft was used in a widely publicized hostage rescue mission and the subject of the major motion picture, Captain Phillips.
In 2012, Andy retired from Insitu as the Senior VP of Production Operations. Insitu remains a very successful company with over 1,500 employees and was sold around 2008 to Boeing’s Unmanned Aircraft Division.
After 42 years in his profession, he still enjoys watching aircraft—but, from the perspective of leisurely floating in Lake Norman. “I enjoy doing nothing—because I can!” beams Andy. However, his “nothing” keeps him quite busy as he takes pleasure in woodworking, serving as the Secretary and Webmaster for his Homeowners Association, keeping up with recent advances in computers and technology, boating, dining at his favorite restaurant Chillfire and, most importantly, spending time with grandchildren.
SSgt, USAF (1966-1970)
Senior VP, Production Operations (Insitu, Retired)