Face of Defense
Female F-35 Pilot Begins Training
By Air Force 1st Lt. Hope Cronin,
33rd Fighter Wing.
Eglin Air Force Base, Florida — (DoD
News) — May 7, 2015 — Air Force Lt. Col. Christine Mau, 33rd Fighter
Wing Operations Group deputy commander, completed her first training flight in
the single-seat F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighter here May 5. Previously,
Mau completed 14 virtual training missions in the F-35 Academic Training
Center’s full-mission simulator.
First flight in the F-35 of Air Force Lt. Col. Christine Mau
“It wasn’t until I was taxiing to the runway that it really struck me that I
was on my own in the jet,” said Mau, formerly an F-15E Strike Eagle pilot. “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.”
And with that, like the other 87 F-35A pilots trained here over the last four
years, Mau thundered down the runway and was airborne as the first woman in the
Air Force’s premier fighter.
An Easy Adjustment
“It felt great to get airborne,” she said. “The jet flies like a dream, and
seeing the systems interact is impressive. Flying with the helmet-mounted
display takes some adjusting, but it’s an easy adjustment. The training missions
in the simulator prepare you very well, so you’re ready for that flight.”
The initial flight in the F-35 training syllabus is designed to orient pilots
with the physical aspects of flying the F-35 as compared to other fighters
they’ve flown previously, such as the F-15E Strike Eagle, F-15C Eagle, F-16
Falcon, A-10 Thunderbolt II or F-22 Raptor.
Women have served in combat aviation roles in those and other aircraft for
more than 20 years.
Mau acknowledged that although she may be the first woman pilot in the F-35
program, her gender has no bearing on her performance. She joked that the only
difference between her and her fellow F-35 pilots is the size of her G-suit and
facemask -- both extra-small.
A Great Equalizer
“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,”
she explained. “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
Mau’s combat experience and technical prowess in the cockpit were the primary
draws for her selection to her position with the 33rd Operations Group.
“Lieutenant Colonel Mau brings a valuable level of combat and operational
knowledge to our team,” said Air Force Col. Todd Canterbury, 33rd Fighter Wing
commander. “We’re nearly a year out from declaring initial operational
capability with the F-35. We need battle-tested pilots to help us put the F-35A
through its paces and ensure we have a trained and ready force of F-35 pilots to
feed into our combat air forces.”
Canterbury witnessed Mau’s leadership and combat effectiveness first-hand
when they were both deployed to Afghanistan in 2011, where she was part of
another important milestone for women in the combat aviation community.
Made History in Afghanistan
While with the 389th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, Mau was part of the
first all-female combat sortie. The combat mission provided air support to
coalition and Afghan forces in Afghanistan’s Kunar Valley. From the pilots and
weapons system officers of the two F-15E jets to the mission planners and
maintainers, the entire mission was carried out entirely by women.
“As a service, we need to attract the most innovative and skillful airmen
possible for one reason: it makes us more effective,” Canterbury said. “The
broader the net that we cast into the talent pool, coupled with a laser focus on
performance, ensures we have the best airmen in place to carry out the mission.
Performance is key, and it’s the standard we hold all of our airmen to in the
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33rd Fighter Wing