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Navy’s Blue Angels to get first female demonstration team pilot

Chief Petty Officer Paul Archer/US Navy

(WASHINGTON) — U.S. Navy Lt. Amanda Lee has been selected as the first female jet pilot to join the Navy’s elite Blue Angels flight demonstration team, according to the Navy.

Lee, of Mounds View, Minnesota, is an F/A-18 pilot stationed at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia, where she is currently assigned to the “Gladiators” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106. She graduated from Old Dominion University in Richmond, Virginia, in 2013.

While she will become the first flight demonstration pilot to fly the Blue Angels’ F/A-18 demonstration aircraft, she is not the team’s first female pilot. In 2015, Marine Major Katie Cook flew the Blue Angels’ KC-130 logistics aircraft known as “Fat Albert.”

Lee’s selection to the Blue Angels was announced Monday in a Facebook post that announced the selection of six new officers who would join the team for the upcoming 2023 season.

While her selection is a first for the Navy’s demonstration team, the U.S. Air Force’s Thunderbirds flight demonstration team has had six female pilots fly the team’s F-16 fighters since the first female pilot was selected to join the team in 2005.

Lee, whose call sign is “Stalin,” joined the Navy as an enlisted sailor in 2007 while attending the University of Minnesota and working at a UPS location, according to the Navy.

After serving as an aviation electronics technician, Lee was selected for a Navy program that enables enlisted sailors to get college degrees and become officers.

Lt. Cmdr. Thomas Zimmerman, of Baltimore, Maryland, who is currently assigned to the “Red Rippers” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 11, will also join the Blue Angels as a flight demonstration pilot.

Lee, Zimmerman, and the other four officers will report to the Blue Angels squadron in September for a two-month turnover period. When the Blue Angels air show season ends in November, they will begin a rigorous five-month training program at NAS Pensacola, Florida, and Naval Air Facility El Centro, California.

“We had an overwhelming number of applicants from all over the globe this year,” Capt. Brian Kesselring, commanding officer and flight leader of the Blue Angels, said in a Navy statement.

“We look forward to training our fantastic new team members, passing on the torch, and watching the incredible things this team will accomplish in 2023,” he added.

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