Blue Angels name first female demonstration jet pilot

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NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The first woman selected to fly as a demonstration jet pilot with the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels is an Old Dominion University graduate based at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach.

Lt. Amanda Lee, of Mounds View, Minnesota, is currently assigned to the “Gladiators” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 and goes by the call sign “Stalin.”

Lee first enlisted in the Navy back in 2007, and worked as an aviation electronics technician before joining the seaman-to-admiral commissioning program. She was commissioned in 2013, the Navy says.

Once she completes a five-month training starting this fall at NAS Pensacola and Naval Air Facility El Centro, Calif., she’ll be one of the Blue Angels’ main F/A-18E/F Super Hornet pilots.

Though she’s the first woman picked to fly a jet with the Blue Angels, she’s not the first female pilot with the demonstration team. Marine Maj. Katie Cook flew the squadron’s KC-130, lovingly named “Fat Albert,” from 2015 to 2016.

Lee was one of several officers selected for the 2023 show season on Monday, including Lt. Philippe Warren. The Virginia native and UVA grad is a flight surgeon currently serving with the “Fighting Griffins” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 266.

Lt. Cmdr. Thomas Zimmerman, of Baltimore, was the other demo team pilot named Monday. The Naval Academy grad is part of the “Red Rippers” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 11 at Oceana.

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

Here’s the full list of selections:

F/A-18E/F Demonstration Pilots:

  • Lt. Cmdr. Thomas Zimmerman, of Baltimore, Md., is currently assigned to the “Red Rippers” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 11. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 2009.
  • Lt. Amanda Lee, of Mounds View, Minn., is currently assigned to the “Gladiators” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106. She graduated from Old Dominion University in 2013.

Events Coordinator:

  • Lt. Cmdr. Brian Vaught, of Englewood, Colo., is a naval flight officer currently assigned to the Naval School of Aviation Safety. He graduated from the University of Colorado in 2008.

C-130 Demonstration Pilot:

  • Marine Corps Capt. Samuel Petko, of Osceola, Ind., is a KC-130J Hercules pilot currently as-signed to the “Sumos” of Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron (VMGR) 152. He graduated from Indiana University in 2014.

Maintenance Officer:

  • Lt. Cmdr. Greg Jones, of Cary, N.C., is an aviation maintenance officer currently assigned to Pre-Commissioning Unit John F. Kennedy (CVN 79). He graduated from Elon University in 2008.

Flight Surgeon:

  • Lt. Philippe Warren, of Williamsburg, Va. is a flight surgeon currently assigned to the “Fighting Griffins” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 266. He graduated from the University of Virginia in 2014.

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