05/14/2015: Lt. Col. Christine Mau completed her first training flight in the F-35 Lightning II at Eglin Air Force Base, making her the first female F-35 pilot.
According to a story in the Daily News:
The first female F-35 fighter jet pilot took to the skies Tuesday.
Lt. Col. Christine Mau completed her first training flight at the Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, becoming the 88th aviator to fly the billion-dollar Lightening II jet, the Air Force said.
The flight marked a milestone for women in the armed forces and a personal one for Mau, who had trained in 14 virtual missions in a simulator.
“It wasn’t until I was taxing to the runway that it really struck me that I was on my own in the jet,” Mau said, according to a press release. “It felt great to get airborne. The jet flies like a dream.”
She is the first woman in the F-35 program, but women have been flying in the Air Force for over 20 years, the Department of Defense said.
Mau has been flying since at least 2011, when she was deployed to Afghanistan and completed the first ever all-female combat flight mission.
The deputy commander for the 33rd Fighter Wing reportedly joked that the only difference between her and male pilots was the size of her uniform and face mask.
“Flying is a great equalizer,” Mau said. “The plane doesn’t know or care about your gender as a pilot, nor do the ground troops who need your support. You just have to perform.”
Mau said she had to adjust to the high-tech F-35 helmet, which allows pilots to effectively see through the plane through its video display.
The F-35 is due to roll out in about a year after testing, and test pilots play a key role in ensuring it’s ready in time, Col. Todd Canterbury said.
“We need to attract the most innovative and skillful Airmen possible for one reason — it makes us more effective,” Canterbury said, according to the press release. “Performance is key, and it’s the standard we hold all of our Airmen to in the Air Force.”
Credit:33rd Fighter Wing/Public Affairs:5/5/15