Lt. Col. Christine Mau became the first woman to fly the Air Force’s new F-35 jet this week, continuing to trailblaze as she did in 2011 when she was part of the first all-female combat mission in Afghanistan.
"It wasn't until I was taxiing to the runway that it really struck me that I was on my own in the jet," Mau, the 33rd Fighter Wing Operations Group deputy commander, said in an Air Force press 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 trained for her first flight in the new jet with 14 virtual training missions in the full mission simulator at the F-35 Academic Training Center.
Although she may have been the first female to pilot the F-35, Mau said in the release that her gender really doesn’t have an impact on her performance as a fighter pilot.
"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. 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."
Mau's combat experience and technical prowess in the cockpit were the primary draws for her selection to her position with the 33rd OG.
Bloomberg reported at the end of April that there were problems with the F-35 engines
made by United Technologies Corp., and said a report from the Government Accountability Office showed the unit’s reliability is “very poor (less than half of what it should be) and has limited” progress for the jet. The GAO said design changes were needed for the engines on what Bloomberg said was the “costliest U.S. weapons system.”
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