Our Team

Meet the Team

Nancy Grazzini-Olson



Nancy Grazzini-Olson has been Thunderbird’s President since 1990, and owner of our Company since 2000. Under her leadership, Thunderbird has grown to become one of the leading providers of flight training and general aviation services in the upper Midwest. Nancy is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and she is active in numerous business and philanthropic activities in the Twin Cities region.

Jarod Olson

Operations Manager (FCM)


Jarod started at Thunderbird Aviation in 2007 as a Line Service Technician. After receiving his instrument rating from Thunderbird Aviation, he took a short hiatus in aviation to pursue a master’s degree in Theoretical Physics. Upon his return to Thunderbird Aviation in 2017 he has dedicated his time to integrating cost effective technology into FBO services and flight training to keep up with the demands of the quickly changing industry. Assuming the position of Operations Manager in 2023, Jarod makes it his mission to give the highest quality service in combination with industry leading hospitality.

Rusty Freeman

Operations Manager (MIC)


Rusty Freeman is a lifelong aviation enthusiast. After graduating High School, Rusty enlisted in the United States Air Force and operated as an aircraft mechanic on the A-10C Thunderbolt attack aircraft and included a tour in Afghanistan. Rusty separated from the service in 2012 and began his education at Academy College in the Professional Pilot BAS program. After graduation, Rusty worked as a Flight Instructor for Thunderbird Aviation building 1,400 hours of flight time. Rusty then took on leadership roles at Thunderbird, becoming Flight Training Manager and Operations Manager of our Crystal Airport location. Rusty is also Chief Ground Instructor at Academy College. During his free time, Rusty enjoys building and flying giant scale remote control aircraft, riding motorcycles, and working on enthusiast cars. 

Paul Bloch

Director of Maintenance


Paul’s interest in aviation started when he was 5 years old, on a school fieldtrip, when his teacher’s husband circled over the class and dipped the airplane wings. From that time on he constantly looked up to the sky and thought about how he could make flying part of his life. He began flying remote control airplanes and they got bigger and bigger until he moved up to experimental ultralights.

In 2000, while obtaining his private pilot’s license, Paul started working for Thunderbird Aviation as a Customer Service Representative and Line Service personnel. Shortly after that, Paul owned his first certified airplane and decided that it would be nice to get the certification for maintenance.

In 2008 Paul started school at MCTC, where he obtained an Associate’s degree in Airframe and an Associate’s degree in Powerplant. Upon graduation in 2010, he continued working at Thunderbird Aviation as an A and P Mechanic. Paul now heads Thunderbird Aviations well respected A&P apprentice program.

In 2018 Paul was promoted to his current role at Thunderbird.

Paul’s other interests include: building experimental aircraft, building treehouses and other construction projects, gourmet cooking, playing classical violin, and biking with his two children.

John Clough

Chief Flight Instructor


A 12,000 hour pilot, John comes to us with a diverse background in flight instruction, commercial and governmental flight operations. He’s been with Academy College for three years as an Adjunct Instructor but became our Chief Flight Instructor in late 2021. An Army veteran, John appreciates dedication and hard work but knows that people come to aviation because it’s fun. But they stay in aviation because it’s a great career. He’s type rated in the King Air 300/350 and the Hawker HS125 family of turbojets. Look for John at EAA Air Venture taking care of B-25s, C-47s and other historic bombers and transports.

Fred Nauer

Assistant Chief Flight Instructor


Fred Nauer’s been involved in aircraft maintenance and flying in the Air Force, flew as a first officer in the airlines, worked in a college aerospace program, and as an aircrew training instructor at Delta/Northwest Airlines, Inc.

While United States Air Force, his first assignment was as an Aircraft Maintenance Officer. He supervised crew chiefs (aircraft mechanics), avionics technicians and engine mechanics. He was chosen to go to navigator training and was assigned to fly the F-4E as a weapons System Officer (WSO) after graduation. As a WSO he was trained in California, fought the cold war in West Germany and finished up in North Carolina.

After he was released from the Air Force, he started pilot training. Because of his experience as a navigator, he progressed very quickly through the training and became both a ground instructor and a flight instructor.

Fred flew Mesba Airlines in the Avro RJ-85 (BAC-146) as a first officer. He has taught at the high school, community college, college and the university level. He was an adjunct professor at Middle Tennessee State University working on research and teaching methods to find ways to efficiently introduce glass cockpit aircraft to the general aviation community. He is currently teaching a course for future flight instructors at the Academy College and is the Assistant Chief Flight Instructor at Thunderbird Aviation.

He has currently logged over 8,000 hours in numerous aircraft. Over 7,000 as a flight instructor.

Chris Cape

Charter – Director of Operations


Chris has worked for Thunderbird Aviation since 2006. He began his tenure here as Operations Manager of our Crystal Airport location, where he worked to rebrand the business from Academy Flight Operations to Thunderbird Aviation Crystal. In June 2007, he accepted a position as Operations Manager of our Flying Cloud location and also assumed the role of Chief Pilot for our Air Carrier operations. In August 2008, Chris was promoted to General Manager, overseeing all operations at both locations, as well as assuming the role of Director of Operations on Thunderbird’s FAR 135 Air Carrier Certificate. In 2017, he refocused his duties in the 135 operations and is now Chief Pilot and 135 Operations. Before arriving at Thunderbird, Chris spent seven years as a commercial pilot, flying for both US Airways Express/Piedmont Airlines and Atlantic Southeast Airlines. Chris graduated from the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, and holds both a Master of Science degree in Aviation and a Bachelor of Science degree in Commercial Aviation. He has over 10,000 hours of flying experience and is type rated in various aircraft, including the De Havilland Dash 8, Bombardier CRJ and B-737.