The first female Marine F-35B pilot is about to graduate as well. While her graduation is fast approaching, 1st Lt. Catherine Stark, was recently the first female Marine selected to fly the F-35C.
She has been undergoing F-35B training at Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 aboard the Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Beaufort, South Carolina.
While her graduation is fast approaching Stark had her aviation wings pinned on during a ceremony aboard Naval Air Station (NAS) Kingsville, Texas, following completion of flight school on Aug. 2, 2019.
Stark will soon begin nine to 12 months of F-35C training at the Navy’s F-35C Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS) in Lemoore, California.
Stark has spent the past 18 months training on the T-6 Texan II and the T-45 Goshawk. She graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy with a degree in aerospace engineering was commissioned as a Marine officer in 2016, GoErie.com reported.
“Up until now they were only taking F-18 pilots that were already out in the fleet, someone with a lot of experience, and they were sending them back to school for six months and then transitioning them to the F-35,” Stark told GoErie.com in a phone interview. “But recently, they’ve been picking people right out of flight school (for the F-35). That’s been the special thing. Up until now, people fresh out of flight school with no fleet experience — like myself; I haven’t been to a squadron yet because I just finished flight school — we didn’t have the opportunity to select the F-35.”
“And I guess you could tack on that, because I’m a woman, by virtue I guess I’m the first woman picked to fly the F-35C for the Marine Corps,” she told GoErie.com. “I’ve been blessed to get picked up for the F-35 Charlie. I don’t want to downplay it, but I don’t think it’s that big of a deal.”
While the first female Marines are entering the F-35 pilot community, other female pilots have come before them.
In 2015, then-Air Force Lt. Col. Christine Mau became the first female F-35 pilot in the program and in December 2018, Air Force Maj. Rachael Winiecki became the first female test pilot to fly an F-35.
The Marines have 86 F-35 pilots across the Corps, but are authorized to have 263, according to data obtained by Marine Corps Times through a government records request. The data is current as of February.
Photo credit: U.S. Navy