Air Force Announces First Ever Female F-35 Fighter Jet Pilot, Lt. Col. Christine Mau

Air Force Announces First Ever Female F-35 Fighter Jet Pilot

Meet Lt. Col. Christine Mau, the first woman to fly the F-35 Lightning II fighter jet.

christine mau
Lt. Col. Christine Mau, 33rd Operations Group deputy commander, puts on her helmet before taking her first flight in the F-35A on Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., May 5, 2015.

Mau took to the skies in an F-35 from Florida’s Eglin Air Force Base on Tuesday, the Air Force announced. Previously, she’d completed 14 virtual training missions in a flight simulator.

"It wasn't until I was taxiing to the runway that it really struck me that I was on my own in the jet," the former F-15E Strike Eagle pilot said, per a news release. "I had a chase aircraft, but there was no weapons system officer or instructor pilot sitting behind me, and no one in my ear like in simulators."

Mau is the 88th F-35 pilot who has trained at Eglin in the last four years, the Air Force says. The F-35 program includes the Navy, Marine Corps and allied forces.

Lt. Col. Christine Mau navigates her F-35A through the “bird bath” after returning from her first flight on Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., May 5, 2015.

The F-35 is a state-of-the-art fighter jet. According to the Telegraph, the plane can fly at nearly twice the speed of sound, and is equipped with the latest in intelligence-gathering and stealth technologies.

“This is simply a phenomenal flying machine,” a British test pilot told the news outlet in 2013 after taking the jet for a spin.

As The Hill points out, women have flown in combat since the 1990s, but the Air Force said Mau is the "first woman in the Air Force's premier fighter."

Mau is no stranger to making history. In 2011, she was part of the first all-female combat sortie while deployed to Afghanistan.

"Flying is a great equalizer," said Mau, per the release. "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. That's all anyone cares about when you're up there -- that you can do your job, and that you do it exceptionally well."

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of Eglin Air Force Base.

Before You Go

Samuel King Jr. / U.S. Air Force
Melissa Gonzales, an Air Force Wounded Warrior athlete, shares a moment with her service dog, Bindi, after swimming laps during the fourth day of an introductory adaptive sports and rehabilitation camp at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida on April 16, 2015.
Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder / U.S. Air Force
Combat controllers from the 21st Special Tactics Squadron fast-rope from a CV-22 Osprey during Emerald Warrior near Hurlburt Field, Florida, April 21, 2015.
Staff Sgt. Sean Martin / U.S. Air Force
C-130J Super Hercules aircraft assigned to the 317th Airlift Group, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, help U.S. Army and British paratroopers perform a static line jump at Holland Drop Zone in preparation for Combined Joint Operational Access Exercise 15-01 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina on April 11, 2015. This is the largest exercise of its kind held at Fort Bragg in nearly 20 years and demonstrates interoperability between U.S. Army and British army soldiers, U.S. Air Force, Air National Guard and Royal Air Force airmen and U.S. Marines.
Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Megan Anuci / U.S. Navy
Sailors and Marines aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima participate in a swim call in the Gulf of Aden, April 18, 2015.
Tech. Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez / U.S. Air Force
The Thunderbirds Thunder Diamond formation performs the Diamond Bottom Up Pass maneuver during a practice show at Lakeland, Florida, April 24, 2015.
Tech. Sgt. Joshua J. Garcia / U.S. Air Force
U.S. Army Green Berets from the 7th Special Forces Group jump out of a C-130H3 Hercules for Emerald Warrior at Hurlburt Field, Florida, April 22, 2015.
Rohn D. Wallace / U.S. Navy
The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) pulls alongside the Military Sealift Command dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Medgar Evers (T-AKE 13) before a replenishment-at-sea on April 15, 2015.
Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Kameren Guy Hodnett / U.S. Navy
Lt Cmdr. Melissa Buryl, from Canton, Ohio, a pediatrician stationed at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, Virginia, checks a child's vital signs at the Hattieville Government School in Hattieville, Belize on April 17, 2015.
Gunnery Sgt Ezekiel R. Kitandwe / U.S. Marine Corps
U.S. Marine Corps officers assigned to Company A, The Basic School (TBS), listen in on a confirmation brief for "The War" field training exercise aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, April 16, 2015.
Lance Cpl. Aaron S. Patterson / U.S. Marine Corps
Lance Cpl. Curtis E. Sledge, a machine gunner assigned to Weapons Platoon, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, relaxes on a rock wall prior to participating in a night raid aboard Marine Corps Training Area Bellows, April 17, 2015.

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