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50 Years of Women Flying in the Navy graphic

Capt. Rosemary Mariner
Vice Admiral Nora Tyson
Lt. Amanda Lee

In 1973, the first eight women began flight school in Pensacola, and one year later six of those eight women, titled "The First Six", earned their Wings of Gold. In the fifty years since, Naval Aviation has expanded its roles for women to lead and serve globally. Today, our women aviators project power from the sea and in every type, model, and series aircraft. They fly and fight in all strike missions, hunt submarines, protect the integrity of our nuclear triad, supply essential cargo and personnel to every corner of the globe, and rescue those in distress at sea and ashore. They command aircraft carriers, carrier air wings, squadrons, and missions to space. In 2023, we reflect on our Naval Aviation history and pay tribute to all of our women Naval Aviators- “The First Six”, and all those who have come after them. Our Nation and our Navy is stronger because of their service.

Timeline April through June

Timeline July through October

Significant milestones title graphic

  • June 24, 1964: PHC Clara B. Johnson

    • Received the designation of aerial photographer, the first woman in the Navy with the right to wear the wings of an aircrewman. 

  • December 20, 1973: Lts. Jane O. McWilliams and Victoria M. Voge

    • Became the first women naval flight surgeons upon their graduation from the Naval Flight Surgeon Training Program. 

  • 1972: Airman Roseann Roberts 

    • The first Navy woman Helicopter Plane Captain 

  • August 7, 1972: “Z- Gram” on Equal Rights and Opportunities for Women 

  • March 2, 1973: Four of the first class of women begin flight school

  • February 22, 1974: LCDR Barbara Allen Rainey

    • The first woman Naval Aviator to earn her wings 

  • February 1974: CAPT Judith Neuffer Bruner 

    • One of the first six women to earn her wings 

  • April 1974: CAPT Jane Skiles O’Dea

    • One of the first six women to earn her wings 

  • April 19, 1974: CAPT Joellen Drag Oslund

    • One of the first six women to earn her wings 

  • The first female helicopter pilot in the military 

  • 1974: CAPT Ana Maria Scott Fuqua

    • One of the first six women to earn her wings 

  • June 1974: CAPT Rosemary Mariner

    • One of the first six women to earn her wings 

    • First woman to command an operational naval aviation squadron on 12 JULY 1990 

    • (Led VAQ-34 during Operation Desert Storm)

    • First woman to fly a front-line tactical strike aircraft 

  • March 4, 1977: Janna Lambine

    • First woman Coast Guard Aviator 

  • June 20, 1979: Lt. Donna L. Spruill

    • (VRC-40) Became the first female naval aviator to carrier qualify in a fixed-wing aircraft. Spruill and copilot and squadron commanding officer, Cmdr. Jerry L. Wright, made ten landings and three catapult launches in a C-1A Trader on board Independence (CV 62) in the Atlantic. 

Significant milestones title graphic

  • June 6, 1980: Brenda Robinson

    • First African American woman Navy Pilot 

    • Jan. 14, 1981; The first African American woman to carrier qualify 

  • August 1980: USS Lexington

    • First Aircraft carrier to allow women to train onboard 

  • June 1981: Mary Crawford

    • First woman NFO 

  • July 30, 1982: Ens. Jannine Weiss

    • Became the first enlisted woman to receive her wings and to receive a commission under the new Limited Duty Officer Aviator Program. 

  • June 10, 1983: Colleen Nevius 

    • First woman pilot graduate of United States Naval Test Pilot School  

  • December 16, 1983: HMC (Ret) Catherine Elliot 

    • The first woman to qualify as a helicopter rescue swimmer 

  • March 20, 1984: Lt. Catherine H. Osman

    • Piloted an HH-46A Sea Knight on board Iowa (BB 61), making her the first female pilot to land a helicopter on a battleship. 

  • February 13, 1987: Ens. Kamin A. Bell  

    • (HT-8) Became the Navy’s first female African American helicopter pilot. 

Significant milestones title graphic

  • May 22, 1991: The House Armed Services Committee voted to allow women to fly combat missions in Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps aircraft. The measure was included in an amendment to the 1992 defense budget. 

  • July 31, 1991: The Senate voted overwhelmingly to overturn a 43-year-old law that had barred women from flying warplanes in combat. The new measure, which was an amendment to the military budget bill for the 1992 fiscal year, permitted—but did not require—the armed forces to allow women to fly combat missions.  

  • March 31, 1992: Lt. Cmdr. Wendy B. Lawrence  

    • Became the first female line officer and naval aviator astronaut.

    • March 2, 1995; Lawrence is the first woman naval aviator to go to space 

  • 1993: Matice Wright- Springer 

    • First African American woman NFO 

  • April 28, 1993: Secretary of Defense Leslie Aspin lifted the ban on combat flights for women and opened additional ships to female sailors. He further stated his intention to forward a draft proposal to Congress to remove the last legislative barrier to the assignment of women to combat vessels. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Frank B. Kelso II concurred. On 30 November, President William J. Clinton signed legislation that lifted the ban on women serving on board combat ships.  

  • April 29, 1993: After the decision by Secretary of Defense Leslie Aspin to expand combat roles for women, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Frank B. Kelso II opened six enlisted naval aviation ratings to women: aviation antisubmarine warfare operator (AW), electronic warfare technician (EW), fire controlman (FC), gas turbine technician (GS), gas turbine technician–electrical (GSE), and gas turbine technician–mechanical (GSM). 

  • May 14, 1993: Official Memorandum from Chief of Naval Personnel 

    • Allows women to serve in combat roles in the military 

  • May 6, 1993: Lt. Cmdr. Kathryn P. Hire  

    • Was selected for assignment to VP-62, thus becoming the Navy’s first woman to be eligible to compete for assignments in aircraft engaged in combat missions.  

  • November 30, 1993: President William J. Clinton signed legislation that lifted the ban on women serving on board combat ships. 

  • December 1, 1993: Secretary of the Navy John H. Dalton announced the first assignment of women to combat ships to begin by June 1994, pending notification of Congress as required by the fiscal year 1994 Defense Authorization Bill. Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) and Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) were scheduled to be the first carriers to embark women, followed by John C. Stennis (CVN 74) at the end of 1994. 

  • March 7, 1994: The Navy ordered the first 63 women of the ship’s crew to report to Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). 

  • May 7, 1994: Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Ronald J. Zlatoper outlined the Navy’s plan to open new opportunities for women during the seventh annual Naval Aviation Symposium at NAS Pensacola, Fla. VAQ-130 became the first squadron expected to receive women. He also revealed the impending assignment of women to Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 3, embarked on board Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), and CVW-11 on board Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). 

  • July 31, 1994: Lt. Kara S. Hultgreen  

    • (VF-213) Made her first qualifying landing in an F-14A on board Constellation (CV 64) southwest of San Diego, Calif. She thus became the first fully qualified female Tomcat pilot 

  • April 21, 1995: Sarah Deal Burrow 

    • First woman Marine Corps Aviator 

  • August 16, 1996: 1st Lt. Jeanne Buchanan 

    • The first female naval flight officer in the Marine Corps. 

Significant milestones title graphic

  • 2001: Elizabeth Malecha 

    • First woman Naval Aviator to graduate TOPGUN 

      •  NFO 

  • February 2003: Beth Lambert 

    • The first woman Command Master Chief of an aircraft carrier (CVN- 71) 

  • October 2004: Wendi Bryan Carpenter 

    • First woman Naval Aviator to make Flag rank 

  • 2004: Becky Calder 

    • First woman Pilot to graduate TOPGUN 

  • October 2009: April Beldo 

    • The first African American Woman to be CMC of an aircraft carrier 

Significant milestones title graphic

  • July 29, 2010: Nora Tyson 

    • First woman Naval Aviator to command a strike group 

  • January 4, 2013: Sarah Joyner 

    • First woman to command a Carrier Air Wing 

      • (CVN-75) 

  • March 14, 2015: Katie Cook 

    • First woman pilot to perform with the Blue Angels 

      • (Flew C-130, “Fat Albert”) 

  • April 21, 2015: Nora Tyson 

    • First Woman (and Woman Naval Aviator) to be nominated to and lead a ship Fleet 

  • July 2015: Nicole Mann 

    • First woman USMC pilot to graduate from the NASA astronaut program and first woman Marine to be a NASA mission commander 

Significant milestones title graphic

  • April 16, 2020: Angelica Alicia Martelle 

    • First woman AW Master in the Navy 

  • August 19, 2021: Amy Bauernschmidt 

    • First woman to command an Aircraft Carrier 

  • July 18, 2022: Amanda Lee* 

    • First woman selected to be a Blue Angels F/A-18 Demo Pilot 

Navy News



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Women in Naval Aviation: Lt. Nidia Ortizmadrigal

  • Naval Air Systems Command
  • July 3, 2023 | 3:06

Born in Nicaragua, Lt. Nidia Ortizmadrigal came to the United States, joined the Navy and gained her citizenship. She talks about her career, the aviation maintenance community and why she loves serving her country.

This video is part of a special series, "NAVAIR Women in Aviation: Celebrating 50 Years of Women Flying in the Navy" dedicated to celebrating the unique diversity and talents of the NAVAIR aviation community, past and present, and encouraging future generations to join the Navy and pursue STEM related careers.


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