1st female F-35 pilot flies into history books

Lt. Col. Christine Mau puts on her helmet before taking her 1st flight in the F-35A at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., on Tuesday, May 5, 2015. Mau, who has flown F-15E Strike Eagles, made history as the 1st female F-35 pilot in the program.


By KELLY HUMPHREY | (Fort Walton Beach) Northwest Florida Daily News (TNS) | Published: May 7, 2015

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (Tribune Content Agency) — Lt. Col. Christine Mau is no stranger to making history.

In 2011, the then-F-15E pilot took part in a sortie in Afghanistan known as “Dudette 07” — the first all-female combat mission.

On Tuesday, Mau broke another barrier when she became the first woman to pilot an F-35 Lightning II.

“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 said, according to a news release. “It felt great to get airborne. The jet flies like a dream.”

Although women have served in combat aviation roles for more than 20 years, Mau is the first woman to fly the F-35, the military’s fifth generation fighter.

She began training at Eglin’s F-35 Integrated Training Center on March 16 and completed 14 virtual training missions in a simulator before taking off on her own Tuesday.

Mau’s friend Angela Stevenson was on hand to witness her accomplishment.

“I’m so proud of her!” said Stevenson, who met Mau years ago when Stevenson’s husband and Mau flew F-15s together. “She’s one of those people who as soon as you meet her, you know there’s just a spark about her.”

Col. Todd Canterbury, commander of the 33rd Fighter Wing, also sang Mau’s praises.

“Lt. Col. Mau brings a valuable level of combat experience and operational knowledge to our team,” Canterbury said.

Mau, whose call sign is “Grinder,” currently serves as the 33rd Fighter Wing Operations Group deputy commander. She insisted that her gender has no bearing on her performance as a fighter pilot.

“Flying is a great equalizer,” she said. “The plane doesn’t know or care about your gender.”

©2015 the (Fort Walton Beach) Northwest Florida Daily News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Lt. Col. Christine Mau navigates her F-35A through the 'bird bath' after returning from her 1st flight in an F-35 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., on Tuesday, May 5, 2015.