Aviation’s Six Percent And Counting
Flying Is Getting Better
Seems a little hard to believe that in a country that has spawned the likes of Patty Wagstaff, Julie Clark Betty Skelton and dozens of other top female aerobatic pilots since 1915 that the first female member of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds is now in training at Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas. And Punta Gorda, Fla., is claiming a "coup" by hosting the first performance of the group, with Capt. Nicole Malachowski at No. 3 right wing, during the Florida International Air Show April 1 and 2. Malachowski's appointment was announced last June but that didn't stop show manager Bucky McQueen from breathlessly announcing that it will be "the first time a female pilot has performed with any military jet team, anywhere." The Canadian Armed Forces would disagree. In 2001, the Snowbirds welcomed Capt. Maryse Carmichael to the team for a two-year tour. She had previously been the pilot of the Challenger bizjet used by then-Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien. Malachowski recently returned from a four-month tour in Iraq on F-15s and is now getting used to the single throttle on the F-16 at the T-birds' winter home and training base.