Blue Angels appoint first demonstration pilot


it’s a bird It’s an airplane. Next time you look up, it will indeed be a woman on an airplane.

The Navy announced Monday that Lt. Amanda Lee of Mounds View, Minnesota, will be the first female demonstration pilot for the Blue Angels, the second oldest aerobatic team in the world.

“We had an overwhelming number of applicants from all over the world this year,” said Captain Brian Kesselring, commander and flight director for the Blue Angels, who fly Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornets. “We look forward to training our amazing new team members, passing the torch and seeing what incredible things this team will accomplish in 2023.”

Hundreds of women have served with the Blue Angels over the years, but Lee, a 2013 graduate of Old Dominion University, is the first to fly a twin-engine, carrier-based, multirole fighter aircraft to the delight of the masses. Marine Maj. Katie Cook became a Blue Angel pilot in 2015 and flew a long-haul tanker called Fat Albert, but she wasn’t part of the demonstration team like Lee.

Lee and Lt. Cmdr. Thomas Zimmerman from Baltimore are the two pilots of the crew of six that will be part of the 2023 show season.

Lee is currently assigned to the Gladiators of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106, based at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach.

She will join the 24 other highly talented women serving on the team today, Cmdr. Zach Harrell, spokesman for the commander of the Naval Air Forces, told the Washington Post.

Lee joined the Navy in 2007 while attending the University of Minnesota and working at a UPS location, and completed Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, Illinois, according to the Navy.

As a soldier, she served as an avionics technician, a career path that led to her being selected for a program that paves the way for seafarers to become non-commissioned officers.

Lee received a Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry from Old Dominion University and received her commission in August 2013. She was a naval aviator until April 2016.

Just three years later, she was one of eight all-female Naval aviators to pay an airborne tribute at the funeral of one of the Navy’s first female jet pilots, retired Captain Rosemary Mariner.

Lee was unavailable for an interview.

To become a Blue Angel, aviators must be carrier-qualified with approximately 1,250 flight hours in the tactical jet by September 30 of the year they apply, Harrell said. You should also have completed an operational fleet tour along with advanced flight training with an average or higher composite score.

Blue Angels are scouted each year during the Pensacola Beach Air Show, where the team demonstrates their flying skills, and are selected at the end of the week-long event.

Lee and other select members will report to the squadron in September for a two-month rotation period before beginning an intensive five-month training program at NAS Pensacola and Naval Air Facility El Centro, California.

The Blue Angels have existed for more than 70 years. Admiral Chester Nimitz ordered a flight demonstration team to be assembled towards the end of World War II. The Aircrew was formed to stimulate public interest in naval aviation and boost industry morale.

The team has performed in front of more than 450 million viewers since its inception. Blue Angels appoint first demonstration pilot

James Brien

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