US Air Force Graduates First Enlisted Female UAS Pilot

The US Air Force’s first female enlisted pilot completed Undergraduate Remotely Piloted Aircraft Training August 4, at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas. Tech. Sgt. Courtney is part of the Enlisted Pilot Initial Class.
In its 70 years as a separate military service the Air Force has relied almost exclusively on commissioned officers to pilot its aircraft. In December, 2015 the Air Force announced that it would begin to include enlisted Airmen in its training to pilot RPAs. Twelve were selected and incorporated in the training program beginning in October, 2016. The first three EPIC students graduated from URT May 5, 2017.

“Tech. Sgt. Courtney doesn’t do this because she’s a girl, she just gets up every day and puts her uniform on and comes to work and kicks butt because that’s what she does,” said Maj. Natalie, an instructor pilot with the 558th Flying Training Squadron. “That’s who she is. She’s not a woman pilot, she’s a pilot.”

The 558th Flying Training Squadron is the sole source of undergraduate RPA training in the Air Force.

“It’s great to fill that role as the first female,” Courtney said. “It’s awesome and humbling, but our units don’t care if you’re male or female, they just want you to be a good pilot.”

In her 11-year career, the Vacaville, California native has been a part of the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance career field filling various roles such as imagery analyst and sensor operator for the MQ-1 Predator and the RQ-4 Global Hawk.
Undergraduate remotely piloted aircraft training is six months for RPA pilots, who sit in the left seat of an RPA control center during flight and six weeks for their sensor operators who sit in the right seat and control cameras mounted on the RPA.
This accomplishment expands Courtney’s opportunities.

“I’ve been sitting in the right seat for a long time, so now I’m ready to sit in the left seat,” Courtney said.

Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Courtney, has her remote piloted aircraft wings pinned on by her sons David and Riley during the 558th Flying Training Squadron’s Undergraduate Remotely Piloted Aircraft Training Course graduation August 4, 2017, at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas. (U.S. Air Force Illustration by Tech. Sgt. Ave I. Young)

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One comment

  1. Wow, I cant believe the military is still hung up with the “oh look it’s a female doing a job that used to be exclusive to males. Yes it IS news that the Air Force is using enlisted to pilot their UNARMED Platforms. This in my opinion is because they failed to anticipate the demand for pilots that ushering in this new technology would bring. I think that Tech Sgt Courtney while justifiably proud, is probably also a little disgusted that her service still acts in a near Neanderthal manner when it comes to women. Ooooh look a girl who “Kicks Ass” !!! Plenty of “Girls” in every branch of the service kick ass every day. calling them out or it because they are “girls” doing it indicates we still have a long ways to go in gender equality.

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