3/19/2013 – FT. GEORGE G. MEADE (AFNS) — Since 1953, the Air Force’s air demonstration team, the Thunderbirds, have captivated spectators across the world and showed its audiences what the Air Force’s aircraft are capable of.
For two years, Lt.Col. Nicole Malachowski surprised audiences not just in the air, but especially when she stepped out of the cockpit of the fighter jet as the first woman to be accepted for a seat on the Air Force’s premier show team.
Being on the crew took Malachowski full circle to the root of her career, she said. At just 5 years old, she visited an air show with her parents and was fascinated by the powerful roar and agility of the F-4 Phantom II.
“I remember looking my father in the eye and saying ‘I want to be a fighter pilot some day,'” Malchowski said.
Soon she began the journey to the cockpit by participating in the Civil Air Patrol at age 12 and took to the pilot’s seat for her first solo flight at age 16 — getting her pilot’s before her driver’s license. She continued on her path, by applying to the U.S. Air Force Academy, receiving her commission in May 1996.
Malachowski went on to serve in three operational F-15E Strike Eagle fighter squadrons, holding positions as a flight commander and instructor pilot. She quickly amassed more than 1,600 flying hours, including 185 hours of combat time in Operation Deliberate Forge and Operation Iraqi Freedom. On the ground, she also served alongside the U.S. Army’s 2nd Infantry Division as an air liaison officer in South Korea.
In every job, Malachowski excelled, and her flying talent and real-world experience eventually got her selected as the first female pilot in any American military air demonstration team.
by Airman 1st Class Alexander W. Riedel
Air Force News Service