Air National Guard’s first female F-35 pilot completes inaugural flight: ‘It’s exciting’

Officials say 1st Lt. Kelsey Flannery became the first woman to pilot an F-35 fighter jet for...
Officials say 1st Lt. Kelsey Flannery became the first woman to pilot an F-35 fighter jet for the Air National Guard.(Master Sgt. Ryan Campbell/158th Fighter Wing via National Air Guard)
Published: Sep. 15, 2022 at 7:35 PM EDT
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(Gray News) - A female pilot from Kentucky made history earlier this month by piloting an F-35 fighter jet for the Air National Guard.

According to the Air National Guard, 30-year-old 1st Lt. Kelsey Flannery marked her first flight as a Vermont Air National Guard member on Sept. 7.

“I really wanted to be on the leading edge,” Flannery said. “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.”

Officials said Flannery has been training for three years to pilot the F-35A Lightning II.

The 30-year-old daughter of an Air Force pilot said she always knew she wanted to fly for the military.

After considering active duty, Flannery said she learned about the opportunities in the Air National Guard and being selected by Vermont to fly the F-35 was “icing on the cake.”

Flannery said the topic of her being the first female in the Air National Guard to pilot an F-35 never came up throughout the three-year process of becoming the latest pilot in the 134th Fighter Squadron.

“There’s definitely been a trail blazed already. 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,” Flannery said. “People just treat me like a wingman, and it’s great as it allows me to focus more on flying.”

Capt. Jake Dubie, an instructor pilot in the 134th Fighter Squadron, said Flannery did great on her first flight in Vermont.

“Never had to worry about her up in the air,” he said. “She did an awesome job, so it was definitely a lot of fun.”

According to Dubie, the goals laid out for Flannery are to be the best fighter pilot she can be and be someone who can be trusted in the air.

Flannery said she is excited to be part of the 134th Fighter Squadron as it has a strong reputation in the fighter community and a history that dates back to World War II.

“The heritage here goes back so many decades, and it’s so important that we retain that heritage,” Flannery said.