Kelsey Flannery Becomes First Female To Pilot An F-35 Fighter Jet For The Air National Guard

Kelsey Flannery Becomes First Female To Pilot An F-35 Fighter Jet For The Air National Guard

A 30-year-old Kentucky native just made history by becoming the first female to pilot an F-35 fighter jet for the Air National Guard.

1st Lt. Kelsey Flannery took flight earlier this month with Vermont's Air National Guard after years of training.

According to a press release from the Air National Guard, Flannery has been training for three years to take the historic flight on the F-35A Lightning II.

Flannery said: "I saw that they were having interviews. I was really interested in a fighter slot, and Vermont is just beautiful. I was really excited, and I was lucky enough to get a pilot slot with them."

The program selected Flannery to become a pilot back in 2019 and she's been training with them ever since - training that all led up to September 7, 2022, when Flannery participated in her first flight as a member of the Vermont Air National Guard.

In the press release, Flannery said, "I really wanted to be on the leading edge. It’s exciting to get up there, go fast, and be able to employ weapons, so that was one of the more appealing parts of it."

Flannery is the daughter of an Air Force pilot and she knew from a young age she wanted to fly. As she grew up and joined the military, she learned of the Air National Guard and set her sights on that. Being selected to pilot for them was the "icing on the cake," in her eyes.

Though Flannery recognizes the honor she has to blaze the way for women, she's grateful for the women who came before her and paved the trail so she could become the first woman to pilot an F-35 fighter jet. She noted that during her training to pilot, she was never treated like a big deal and the topic of being the first woman to pilot an F-35 was never brought up.

She said, "There’s definitely been a trail blazed already, and I’m really grateful to the women who have done that, but nobody has brought it up, and I feel very much like an equal here. People just treat me like a wingman, and it’s great as it allows me to focus more on flying."

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Malorie Thompson

Malorie works as a writer and editor in Northern California. She's passionate about food, conscious living, animal welfare, and conservation. She's worked with a variety of publications in different sectors but is happiest covering topics close to her heart. When not at her laptop, Malorie can be found enjoying picnics on the beach, hiking in the redwoods, and spending time with her rescue pup, Jax.

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