Lockheed Martin has announced that the first female F-35 production and training pilot took to the skies for the first time on June 7.
According to Lockheed Martin, Monessa “Siren” Balzhiser is setting an example for aspiring female pilots around the world.
Balzhiser joined Lockheed Martin in 2018 and was selected to fly the F-16 as a production and training pilot.
When asked if she was interested in flying the F-35, Balzhiser initially thought it was a joke, Lockheed Martin officials said. Balzhiser agreed to take on the challenge of flying the F-35, the world’s most advanced 5th Generation fighter aircraft.
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“I’m absolutely humbled and honored to represent Lockheed Martin and fly the F-16 and the F-35, two of the best fighter jets out there,” Balzhiser said. “It was a little bit shocking at first, but once I settled down, I was in awe—I’m still in awe.”
Balzhiser took her first flight in the F-35 at Luke Air Force Base alongside Lt. Col. Kristin “Mother” Hubbard, her mentor and flight instructor, Lockheed Martin officials said.
According to Lockheed Martin, Balzhiser spent six-weeks preparing for her first flight with the 56th Training Squadron and 61st Fighter Squadron as part of a Senior Officer Course.
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The training, which consisted of academics for each system on the F-35 and 12 simulator scenarios, culminated in a check ride in the simulator from a squadron evaluation pilot.
Once Balzhiser passed her check ride, she was cleared for take-off, Lockheed Martin officials said.
After landing, Balzhiser was greeted back on the ground by her family, colleagues and friends.