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Executive Diversion

Bank president accomplishes life goal: Learning to fly planes

Brandon Box gets away from it all by heading into the clouds.

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  • | 5:00 a.m. January 10, 2024
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Brandon Box, a Naples bank president, gets away from it all by flying into the clouds.
Brandon Box, a Naples bank president, gets away from it all by flying into the clouds.
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Brandon Box. President of Cogent Bank for Southwest Florida. He lives in Naples and hails from Louisiana, holding an MBA from Louisiana State University. He moved to Florida in 2010, rising to be EVP and Southwest Florida market president of IberiaBank by 2017. He moved to Cogent Ban in 2020. 


Pilot, in a Cessna 172. The plane is sort of a starter model, a stable fixed-wing bird that usually cruises at 115 mph — not too fast, but fast enough to teach starter pilots the rules of the clouds. He began to learn in early 2023. Why?"It started off as a dream to see friends in the Southeast," says Box, 39, who rents the plane.

Up and away: A busy commercial banker who manages an operation with 22 people, Box soon discovered some added benefits of flying. The lessons and then the private trips evolved into "therapy and stress relief," he says. "You are 100% focused on the mission at hand." Box says preparation is necessary, from fuel checks to routing the trip. It's a time commitment that takes his mind off work and gives him a new task — with the reward of looking down from heights most people don't regularly see.

High above: Box says the flying is now a hobby he will embrace further, with a faster plane. "(Flying) is better than I imagined," says Box, who cruises at about 8,000 feet above ground. But he stresses safety, noting he never gets too comfortable with zipping through the skies, and he makes sure he is in shape for the flight. "It keeps you sharp," says Box. "It's multitasking. It's not something you want to do without sleep." But there is time for perspective. Box says he sometimes looks downward, and takes in unique views of the ground and, occasionally, wildlife.

Learning to fly: As Box gets deeper into the industry, he has noticed a few rules and problems of aviation. One is there is a waiting list for hangars at most airports. Apparently, a lot of people are flying. That could complicate his plan to own a small airplane capable of cruising at 200 mph — a speed that can get him to spots in Louisiana and the Carolinas much faster. Right now he has flown as far north as Sarasota and Lakeland, marveling at the fact he can land his small plane at any airport.

Chow down: Box says many private-plane fliers grab a bite in another region just because they can. "It's a pleasure getting there," says Box, who also thinks it's fun to grab breakfast in another city after a relatively brief flight.

Like father: Box was inspired to start flying after watching his father start and stop training earlier in his life. The time commitment eventually halted his father's plans, but for the younger Box, seeds in the clouds were planted. "I think that always sparked an intrigue with me," says Box of his father's flights. "It's something I wanted to do for a long time." In 2023, he decided to go for it. By mid-year, he could pilot alone. 

Support from the ground: Box says his wife and family (one daughter, two stepsons) are supportive of his flight plans. If anything, they might have been surprised Box embraced the speed a plane in the empty sky can provide. Why? "They tell me I drive like a grandpa," says Box.


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