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From the Skies to the Silver Screen: One EMBA Grad's Full-Circle Story

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Connor Mokrzycki


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Scott Kartvedt was inspired to join the Navy after watching Top Gun in high school. Now he's putting his Executive MBA degree to use fundraising and supporting veterans' mental and physical health.

EMBA graduate Scott Kartvedt

One of the foundational ideals of my life is that—sometimes to my detriment—I say yes to every opportunity,” says Scott Kartvedt (EMBA ’24). This proclivity has led Kartvedt through a successful career as a pilot, author and recipient of an award from the Screen Actors Guild.

It all started when “Top Gun” hit theaters in 1986 and Kartvedt—then a high school senior in San Diego—decided to become a fighter pilot. And after graduating from Pepperdine University with a degree in accounting, he joined the Navy and did just that.

As a Navy fighter pilot, Kartvedt was deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan and at sea, conducting nearly 100 combat missions in total, and commanded the Navy’s first F35C stealth strike fighter squadron. His prowess in the air landed him in the elite U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, known as the Blue Angels, where he showcased his aerobatic skills at airshows across the country for three years.

After 22 years, Kartvedt retired from the Navy, settling in Colorado Springs with his wife and two sons. It wasn’t long before he found another opportunity to take to the skies, joining United Airlines, where he has spent more than a decade as a pilot and instructor. In 2017, Kartvedt was asked to join the Patriot Jet Team, the only six-jet civilian demonstration team in North America. Per usual, he said yes, joining the all-volunteer team, once again testing the limits of aerobatic maneuvers and flying skills. Kartvedt also helps raise funds for the Patriot Jet Team Foundation, which provides hands-on STEM education, leadership and character-building programming to students in Northern California, and is president of the Blue Angel Foundation, a nonprofit that fundraises for mental and physical health support, provides transitional housing and supports service dog training for veterans.

Scott Kartvedt with veterans at Miramar

In 2018, work on “Top Gun: Maverick,” the long-awaited sequel to the film that inspired Kartvedt to become a pilot, was underway, and the Patriot Jet Team was tasked with training the actors for in-flight sequences—and Kartvedt’s combat experience earned him a spot on the crew. “I thought, ‘Wow,’ what an unbelievable opportunity, to just be involved with ‘Maverick’ in some capacity,” he says. “And then my life went full circle.”

Scott Kartvedt Flying Upside Down

The team’s talents in the cockpit led to Kartvedt and fellow pilot Randy Howell being asked to fly the film’s final flight scenes—an intense, high-speed, low-altitude chase. “When the F-14 Tomcat is fighting the Su-57, Randy and I flew all of those scenes. We spent about two weeks in Northern California filming, flying two to three times a day to get eight minutes of footage. It was surreal,” Kartvedt says. Their work in the movie earned Patriot Jet Team a Screen Actors Guild Stunt Ensemble Award—and Kartvedt an opportunity to work as the aviation safety supervisor on the upcoming “Mission Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 2.”

Kartvedt ventured into the world of publishing after his father was diagnosed with dementia in 2021. “I always told him my stories. And he always said, ‘Scott, you should write a book. Your stories are just outrageous.’  And I thought, ‘Well, I don't know who would want to read it. They're just fun stories.’ When he got diagnosed with dementia, I decided to go ahead and pen some of the stories and the lessons that I had learned along the way, as kind of a tribute to him pushing me to do it,” Kartvedt says. His book, “Full Throttle: From the Blue Angels to Hollywood Stunt Pilot,” was published in 2023.

But beyond adrenaline-filled adventures and authorship, Kartvedt’s degree in accounting and involvement in the nonprofit world inspired him to pursue an Executive MBA from the Daniels College of Business. “I wanted to learn more. Although I am a little bit older than my cohort members, I decided to go ahead and continue my education. And it has been a remarkable experience,” he says.

From the new problem-solving skills he gained in data analytics courses to the leadership and relationship building skills he picked up on a sailing trip with his cohort in San Diego and during their international trips to Dubai and Lisbon—along with “the remarkable professors and the education,” Kartvedt says, “I would recommend it to anybody.”

After graduating, Kartvedt says he wants to put his new skills to use in his role with the Blue Angels Foundation. “I really see myself using the MBA in the nonprofit sector to help raise funds, primarily for our veterans’ mental and physical health,” he says.

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