Maj. Rachael Winiecki, 461st Flight Test Squadron F-35 test pilot, and Airman 1st Class Heather Rice, 412th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, pose for a photo right after Winiecki landed her F-35 Lightning II on her first test mission flight in the fifth-generation fighter Dec. 14, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kenji Thuloweit)

Marking a significant milestone in Air Force history, a female pilot completed a routine F-35 Lightning II flight test at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

Maj. Rachael Winiecki, 461st Flight Test Squadron developmental test pilot, completed the first flight mission led by a female. Winiecki said that there are several female test directors, test conductors, discipline engineers and flight test engineers at the 461st FLTS, in addition to those serving in engineering, maintenance and support functions.

“I am grateful for the women who have broken barriers previously, they built the path,” Winiecki said. “I look forward to the day when sorties like this are a regular occurrence.”

Winiecki commissioned through the Reserve Officer Training Corps. Upon completion of pilot training, she flew the A-10C operationally including deployments to Southwest Asia, Eastern Europe, and the Pacific theater. She then graduated from the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards and was previously assigned as an F-16 Fighting Falcon test pilot with the 416th Flight Test Squadron.

“Major Winiecki was selected to become an F-35 test pilot based on her exceptional flying ability and the important voice she brings to the F-35 development as a prior A-10 (Thunderbolt II) pilot,” said Lt. Col. Tucker Hamilton.

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©2019 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)

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