The image of a US combat fighter pilot was etched in the American psyche with the 1980’s Tom Cruise hit movie “Top Gun”, testosterone fueled masculinity. However, today that image could be replaced by the image of femininity. Captain Emily Thompson of the US Air Force has become the first female fighter pilot to fly the stealth F-35A, the pearl of US aviation.
The maintenance crew that helped her make this historic flight was also comprised of an entirely female staff, also a first.
Still very happy, Captain Thompson commented on the event hoping that "the number of women in command of the F-35 will continue to increase".
In fact Captain Thompson has not just become the first female in the F-35A, she was specifically the first woman to have piloted an F-35A stealth plane into combat.
She accomplished her mission after taking off from Al Dhafra air base in the United Arab Emirates, in the direction of an undisclosed location somewhere in the Gulf-Middle East region, according to a press release from the Central Command revealed on Thursday.
"To be the first woman is a great honor"
"This is my first deployment, so for me it was a pretty big deal, the first combat outing for me. Of course, being the first woman is a great honor, "said Emily Thompson in an interview on the official US Air Force website.
She pointed out that although she is honored, "many women have accomplished exploits before" her.
Emily Thompson is commonly referred to as "Banzai" by her Air Force peers and that name is enscribed on the cockpit of her F-35A.
Thinking back, Thompson tells how she first “wanted to be an engineer”. She went to university to become an aerospace engineer and it was there that she discovered the option to become a pilot. She then understood that she "could fly, instead of building planes" and "everything took off from there".
After graduating from college, she spent approximately a year and a half in pilot training for the F-16, and then continued her training for the F-35A.
An acknowledgment that his peers did not hesitate to share. "It was very stimulating," first class airman Ashlin Randolph, a member of the weapons loading crew who was one of four women assigned to assist Thompson, told the U.S. Air Force website.