Lt. Amanda “Stalin” Lee makes Blue Angels history as the first woman to fly in a demo F/A-18E/F Super Hornet with the team.
On Jul. 18, 2020 the US Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron announced six new officers to join the team for the 2023 air show season. The squadron selected two F/A-18E/F Super Hornet pilots, an events coordinator, a C-130J Super Hercules pilot, an aviation maintenance officer and a flight surgeon to replace outgoing team members.
As reported by Pensacola News Journal, although hundreds of women have served with the Blue Angels in a variety of capacities over 55 years, Lt. Amanda Lee, of Mounds View, Minnesota, will be the first woman to serve as a demonstration pilot.
LT Amanda “Stalin” Lee grew up in Mounds View, Minnesota. While attending the University of Minnesota in Duluth and working at UPS, she decided to enlist in the Navy, graduating from Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, Illinois in 2007. Her successful enlisted career as an Aviation Electronics Technician led to her selection into the Seaman-to-Admiral (STA-21) Commissioning Program. LT Lee received a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry at Old Dominion University, and earned her commission in August 2013. She was designated a Naval Aviator in April 2016 and recently completed a deployment aboard the USS HARRY S. TRUMAN (CVN 75), in support of Dynamic Force Employment (DFE), Operation INHERENT RESOLVE (OIR), as well as numerous exercises with NATO Allies.
In 2019, Lee was part of the first ever all-female flyover as part of the funeral service for retired Navy Capt. Rosemary Mariner, one of the first female Navy jet pilots and the first woman to command an operational naval aviation squadron.
“Capt. Mariner really was the starting point of female aviation,” Lee said at the time. “She’s one of the first eight original female pilots allowed in the Naval pipeline … young kids growing up and not thinking whether they can do something or not because of their race, gender, ethnicity, they just go out and say, ‘This is what I wanna do,’ and that question isn’t really in their mind, it kinda all starts back with Capt. Mariner and some of the doors that she broke down.”
While Lee is the first woman who will fly an F/A-18E/F for the squadron, she isn’t the first woman to take to the skies with the Blue Angels.
That honor goes to Marine Maj. Katie Higgins, who flew the team’s C-130 Fat Albert transport plane 2014 to 2016.
The selected 2023 officers include:
F/A-18E/F Demonstration Pilots:
• Lt. Cmdr. Thomas Zimmerman, of Baltimore, Maryland, 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, Minnesota, is currently assigned to the “Gladiators” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106. She graduated from Old Dominion University in 2013.
• Lt. Cmdr. Brian Vaught, of Englewood, Colorado, 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, Indiana, is a KC-130J Hercules pilot currently assigned to the “Sumos” of Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron (VMGR) 152. He graduated from Indiana University in 2014.
• Lt. Cmdr. Greg Jones, of Cary, North Carolina, is an aviation maintenance officer currently assigned to Pre-Commissioning Unit John F. Kennedy (CVN 79). He graduated from Elon University in 2008.
• Lt. Philippe Warren, of Williamsburg, Virginia, 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.
New team members will report to the squadron in September for a two-month turnover period. Upon completion of the 2022 show season, which concludes in November with the Blue Angels Homecoming Air Show at NAS Pensacola, the team will embark on a rigorous five-month training program at NAS Pensacola and Naval Air Facility El Centro, California.
2022 is the team’s 76th anniversary.
In 1946, the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Chester Nimitz, had a vision to create a flight exhibition team in order to raise the public’s interest in naval aviation and boost Navy morale.
In the 1940’s, the Blue Angels thrilled audiences with our precision combat maneuvers in the F6 Hellcat, the F8 Bearcat and the F9 Panther. During the 1950’s, the team refined its demonstration with aerobatic maneuvers in the F9F-8 Cougar and F11 Tiger and introduced the first six-plane delta formation, still flown to this day.
By the end of the 1960’s, the Blue Angels were flying the F-4 Phantom, the only two seat aircraft flown by the delta formation. In 1974, the team transitioned to the A-4 Skyhawk, a smaller and lighter aircraft with a tighter turning radius allowing for a more dynamic flight demonstration. In 1986, the team celebrated its 40th Anniversary by unveiling the Boeing F/A-18 Hornet.
The Blue Angels, conducted the final flight on the F/A-18 A/B/C/D “Legacy” Hornets on Nov. 4, 2020. The final flight of the Legacy Hornets marked the official transition of the Blue Angels to the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet platform.
Photo credit: U.S. Navy
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