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Breaking Barriers: First KC-46 all-female flight

The all-female aircrew pose for a photo Jan. 22, 2021, at Petersen Air Force Base, Colorado. This was the first the KC-46 Pegasus mission that consisted entirely of women. (United States Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nilsa Garcia)

The all-female aircrew pose for a photo Jan. 22, 2021, at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. This was the first the KC-46 Pegasus mission that consisted entirely of women. (United States Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nilsa Garcia)

Maj. Kelly Junkins, 22nd Operation Support Squadron deputy chief of current operations, inspects the exterior of a KC-46 Pegasus before a flight Jan. 22, 2021, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. Jackson was one of seven pilots from McConnell that flew to United States Air Force Academy in support of the academy’s initiative to increase the number of women and minorities joining rated career fields. (United States Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nilsa Garcia)

Maj. Kelly Junkins, 22nd Operation Support Squadron deputy chief of current operations, inspects the exterior of a KC-46 Pegasus before a flight Jan. 22, 2021, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. Jackson was one of seven pilots from McConnell that flew to United States Air Force Academy in support of the academy’s initiative to increase the number of women and minorities joining rated career fields. (United States Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nilsa Garcia)

Maj. Victoria McBride, Head Quarters Air Mobility Command KC-46 simulator certification pilot, Capt. Kristi Miner, 22nd Air Refueling Wing executive officer, and Capt. Michelle McMillen, 22nd Operations Group executive officer, perform pre-flight checks Jan. 22, 2021, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. As of Oct. 2020, only about 838 female Airmen served as pilots, according to the Air Force Personnel Center officials. (United States Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nilsa Garcia)

Maj. Victoria McBride, Head Quarters Air Mobility Command KC-46 simulator certification pilot, Capt. Kristi Miner, 22nd Air Refueling Wing executive officer, and Capt. Michelle McMillen, 22nd Operations Group executive officer, perform pre-flight checks Jan. 22, 2021, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. As of Oct. 2020, only about 838 female Airmen served as pilots, according to the Air Force Personnel Center officials. (United States Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nilsa Garcia)

Capt. Kristi Miner, 22nd Air Refueling Wing executive officer, sits in the pilot seat of a KC-46 Jan. 22, 2021, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. All seven pilots that took part in the historic flight were graduates of the United States Air Force Academy. (United States Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nilsa Garcia)

Capt. Kristi Miner, 22nd Air Refueling Wing executive officer, sits in the pilot seat of a KC-46 Jan. 22, 2021, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. All seven pilots that took part in the historic flight were graduates of the United States Air Force Academy. (United States Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nilsa Garcia)

The aircrew from the first all-female flight of the KC-46 Pegasus walk the grounds of the United States Air Force Academy Jan. 22, 2021, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The team sought to break down cultural and personal barriers female cadets face when competing for pilot training slots. (United States Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nilsa Garcia)

The aircrew from the first all-female flight of the KC-46 Pegasus walk the grounds of the United States Air Force Academy Jan. 22, 2021, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The team sought to break down cultural and personal barriers female cadets face when competing for pilot training slots. (United States Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nilsa Garcia)

United States Air Force Academy cadets listen to the Women in Aviation panel Jan. 22, 2021, at Colorado Springs, Colorado. The panel topics covered experiences for female aviators, the role as a pilot in the Air Force, and the KC-46 program. (United States Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nilsa Garcia)

United States Air Force Academy cadets listen to the Women in Aviation panel Jan. 22, 2021, at Colorado Springs, Colorado. The panel topics covered experiences for female aviators, the role as a pilot in the Air Force, and the KC-46 program. (United States Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nilsa Garcia)

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. --

 

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, KAN.— A flight crew from McConnell Air Force Base tied back their hair, laced up their boots and made history as the first all-female flight on the KC-46A Pegasus Jan. 22, 2021.

 

A total of 14 female Airmen flew to the United States Air Force Academy to support an initiative to increase the number of women and minorities who join rated career fields.

 

“The fact is that the Air Force pilot population is male-dominated, and we wanted to send the message that this fact did not mean that women aren't capable or have more of a difficult time being a good pilot,” said Maj. Kaitlin Schafer, 344th Air Refueling Squadron chief of scheduling.

 

The team sought to break down cultural and personal barriers female cadets face when competing for pilot training slots. The pilots, maintenance Airmen and a maintenance officer on the flight had the opportunity to speak to cadets during a Women in Aviation question and answer panel.

 

 “It is incredibly humbling to get to work with such amazing ladies. Getting 14 women on an airplane to share our love of flying and aviation with future Air Force officers was an experience that we're all very proud of,” said Capt. Kristi Miner, 22nd Air Refueling Wing wing executive officer.

 

The panel covered a pilot's role in the Air Force, experience as a woman in aviation and the KC-46 program capabilities. For the six McConnell pilots that graduated from the Academy, this meant an opportunity to give a first-hand perspective to the women sitting in the seats they once filled years ago.

 

“As a USAFA grad, this mission meant not only getting a chance to ‘go back where it all started’ but also a chance to speak to future pilots and tell them what I wish I had known when I was in their shoes," said Schafer. “Honest mentorship that builds people up with guided facts and genuine intent is something I live for, and it is something I believe we were able to give.”

 

As of October 2020, only about 838 women in the Air Force served as pilots, according to the Air Force Personnel Center officials. A number that these women hope to see increase with in the coming years.

 

"This was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I couldn't be more grateful to have had the chance to make it happen," said Schafer.