The famed Navy flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels, selected their first female F/A-18E/F demo pilot this year following the completion of the Pensacola Beach Air Show on July 9.
Navy Lt. Amanda Lee was named alongside five other officers as the newest members of the 2023 Show Season for the Blue Angels.
Lee, a native of Mounds View, Minnesota, will join the ranks of countless other women who have served in other capacities with the Blue Angels for the last 55 years, the Navy said in a press release. She will serve the Blue Angels alongside three other women currently on the team serving as a flight surgeon, public affairs officer and event coordinator.
Lee, who is currently assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 106, also has another notable first attached to her resume. She participated in the first all-female flyover in 2019 as part of the funeral service for retired Capt. Rosemary Mariner, the first woman to command a naval aviation squadron.
“When I come into the ready room right now, I’m a pilot first, a person second, and my gender really isn’t an issue,” Lee said in a Navy press release at the time. “It’s people like Capt. Mariner that have paved that way for us, so it’s really a huge honor. I’m super humbled to be a part of this flyover in her honor.”
Navy and Marine jet pilots with an aircraft carrier qualification and a minimum of 1,250 tactical jet flight-hours are eligible to fly jets Number 2 through 7, while Number 8 is reserved for a naval flight officer or naval aviator who has finished their first tour.
Marine pilots selected to fly the C-130J Hercules aircraft, affectionately called “Fat Albert,” must be an aircraft commander with at least 1,200 flight hours. There are currently 17 officers serving with the Blue Angels, according to the team’s website.
The new Angels will report to the squadron in September and, after the completion of the 2022 show season, will complete an intensive five-month training program at NAS Pensacola and Naval Air Facility El Centro, California, in preparation for next year’s show season.
“We had an overwhelming number of applicants from all over the globe this year,” commanding officer and flight leader of the Blue Angels, Capt. Brian Kesselring said. “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.”
Also selected in addition to Lee were Lt. Cmdr. Thomas Zimmerman, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet pilot; Lt. Cmdr. Brian Vaught, events coordinator; Lt. Cmdr. Greg Jones, maintenance officer; Lt. Philippe Warren, flight surgeon; and Marine Corps Capt. Samuel Petko, C-130 Demonstration Pilot.
“The mission of the Blue Angels is to showcase the teamwork and professionalism of the United States Navy and Marine Corps through flight demonstrations and community outreach while inspiring a culture of excellence and service to country,” the Navy said in the press release.
Rachel is a Marine Corps veteran, Penn State alumna and Master's candidate at New York University for Business and Economic Reporting. She has also written for VTDigger and New York Magazine, and previously worked as the Early Bird Brief Editor for Defense News and Military Times.