Col. Derek O’Malley, 20th Fighter Wing commander, relieved Capt. Zoe Kotnik from command Feb. 11 due to a loss of confidence in her ability to lead and command the Air Combat Command F-16 Viper demonstration team.
Capt. Zoe Kotnik, the first female pilot to head the F-16 Viper demonstration team (VDT), has been relieved of her command. A statement from Col. Derek O’Malley of the 20th Fighter Wing said that Captain Kotnik, 30, was removed because Col. O’Malley had “lost confidence in her ability to lead the team.”
O’Malley said “As good people, like Capt. Kotnik make mistakes, I want them to have the opportunity to learn from them without being under public scrutiny, and to continue to be a part of this great service.” Col. O’Malley referred to this being a “difficult time for Capt. Kotnik, but she’s surrounded by wingmen that will help her every step of the way.” The colonel concludes his statement by saying that Major John “Rain” Waters will be restored to lead the team.
There has been no elaboration on the reason for Kotnik’s removal.
According to Kotnik’s official Air Force bio, she goes by the call sign “SiS.” Kotnik was certified as the Viper team leader by ACC commander Gen. Mike Holmes on Jan. 29. She graduated from the Air Force Academy in 2011, earned her wings in 2013, and has more than 1,000 flying hours in military aircraft. She deployed to Kunsan Air Base in South Korea for a year, from February 2015 to February 2016. She also has flown air defense missions in support of Operation Noble Eagle.
Kotnik’s first show as commander was slated to be at Naval Air Station Key West in Florida in March.
The F-16 VDT gives individuals a firsthand look at the world’s premiere multi-role fighter aircraft through precision aerial maneuvers while working toward their mission of inspiring the next generation of Airmen while helping the public identify with the military.
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