Selection of the first female Blue Angels Jet demonstration pilot

For the first time in its 76-year history, the Navy’s Blue Angels will have a woman flying as part of its six-jet display team.

A female driver has been selected to join this team in this capacity for what will be a historic 2023 season, confirms a source with direct knowledge of the situation. The war zone.

“She has been selected as the first female F/A-18 demonstration pilot,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the matter before the Navy released the information.

The war zone is aware of the pilot’s identity, but we are waiting to name her pending the official announcement.

The Blue Angels diamond break. (Navy/Blue Angels)

In a statement to The war zoneLt. Chelsea M. Dietlin, spokesperson for the Blue Angels, did not deny that a woman had been selected as a demonstration jet pilot for the team, but noted, “Women fly the Super Hornet in the Navy for over 30 years. The Blue Angels currently do not have a female F/A-18 pilot. You can find our current list of team members at www.BlueAngels.Navy.Mil. We’ll be sure to send you the announcement of the 2023 team members when it’s available. Thank you for your support and interest in the team!”

Officially known as the US Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels were formed in 1946 at the request of then-Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Chester Nimitz, who “had a vision to create a team of exhibition in order to arouse public interest in naval aviation and boost the morale of the Navy.

Precision aerobatics began with the F6 Hellcats, F8 Bearcats and F9 Panthers and are now performed by the F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, with the team moving from the F/A-18A/B/C/D Legacy Hornet in 2021. .

News of the hiring of the first female pilot began circulating on Wednesday evening after an audio clip and accompanying description was published in the forums. Bill Bagley, a radio interceptor, picked up an in-flight conversation between two Blue Angels pilots as they headed to an air show in Ypsilanti, Michigan on Wednesday.

“I know no one knows we hired a female pilot, but the moment we hire a [public affairs officer] they’ll find out,” said one of the pilots. “So we’re going to have people wanting the job because they see it as a, you know, bullet point on their resume for something they did like public affairs for first wife Angel…”

“We hired the woman,” said one of the pilots. “We can handle what comes after that. Like, we don’t need the whole Navy spool-up and again they’re going to blow it all up no matter what we say.”

Although this woman is the first jet pilot from the team to fly as part of the six-ship demonstration team, she is not the first female pilot from the team to fly in any part demonstration, in general.

This distinction goes to Major Katie Higgins Cook.

Cook flew his C-130 support aircraft as part of the 2015 and 2016 teams.

Although this pilot becomes the first woman to fly with the Navy Blue Angels six-ship display team, she is not the first woman to fly with a US military aircraft display team.

In November 2005, then Lieutenant-Colonel. Nicole Malachowski was selected to fly as Thunderbird No. 3 with the United States Air Force’s Thunderbirds Air Demonstration Squadron, becoming the first woman to fly in a Department of Defense military aircraft display team. Defense.

An experienced fighter pilot, Malachowski has served as a mission-ready fighter pilot in three operational F-15E fighter squadrons and has completed more than 188 combat hours in Operations Deliberate Force and Iraqi Freedom, according to his website. Having retired as a colonel, Malachowski has flown more than 2,300 hours in six different Air Force aircraft: T-3, T-37, T-38, AT-38, F- 15E and F-16C/D.

There have been other women since, of course, in the Thunderbirds and also to lead single-ship display teams for the Navy and Air Force, but not the Blue Angels.

Flying with the Blue Angels is very difficult for any pilot.

The Blue Angels Super Hornets have received a number of modifications for their new role, including the installation of a heavy spring on the control stick, which means the pilot must constantly apply 40 pounds of back pressure to it, even in level flight.

This modification was carried over from the “Legacy” Hornet and it helps in tricky formation flying while being in extremely close proximity to other aircraft. Additionally, the team don’t wear anti-G suits, as the swelling of the bladders that compress the lower extremities to prevent blood from pooling there during high-g maneuvers could disrupt their finely tuned stick entries, always under pressure. By comparison, the Thunderbirds wear anti-G suits and their F-16s have pressure-controlled side sticks.

Whether a woman was capable of handling these entries given the physical strength required to do so for the duration of a Blue Angels demonstration, typically more than 45 minutes, was addressed in the Navy’s findings of a complaint of sexual harassment to the Blue Angels. The report, which found no evidence of gender discrimination in the selection of the Blue Angles display team, discussed a PowerPoint presentation developed to show the challenges women face when ‘they want to fly as part of the demo team. He found that women were able to fly jets for the demo team. He also found an overwhelming feeling from team members that a woman would indeed be welcome:

Crites cited a PowerPoint presentation showing some of the challenges faced by women wanting to join the team. (Screenshot from official Navy document).

Pilot skills aside, the Navy’s shortage of female pilots means a much smaller pool of potential candidates for the Blue Angels’ base jet demonstration cadre.

As of June 30, the Navy had a total of 7,118 pilots, according to figures it provided The war zone. Of these, 648, or about 9%, are women.

In fixed-wing aviation, the percentage of women is even lower. Of the Navy’s 3,627 fixed-wing pilots, 195, or just over 5%, are women.

But that disparity may be changing.

The Navy specifies that as of June 30, out of 2,416 trainee pilots, 382 – or nearly 16% – are women.

Blue Angels in action. (US Navy/Blue Angels)

Cook, who flew Fat Albert from 2014 to 2016, admitted to Pensacola Diary that the pool of qualified female pilots to apply for the Blue Angels fighter aircraft demonstration squadron is small. But also the number of pilots within the pool who are at the right time in their career to apply is even smaller.

“The number of drivers with the qualifications and the career schedule who are women is almost non-existent and in some years is non-existent,” she said.

In addition to all other factors, the woman who will eventually fly with the team will have to be the right person.

“Team members spend 300 days a year with each other. To be a cohesive team, personalities have to gel. The best-fit candidate gets the job, regardless of gender,” he said. she declared.

The Blue Angels have finally found a candidate they believe is the right fit, an incredible pilot who happens to be female and is ready to make history for all to see.

An emblematic American institution, the Blue Angels evolve with the times. (Blue Angels/Navy)

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