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First female Thunderbird takes last flight at SJ
U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Nicole Malachowski, 333rd Fighter Squadron commander, conducts pre-flight inspections in an F-15E Strike Eagle prior to take-off on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., May 8, 2013. Malachowski has recorded more than 2,100 flying hours in her career. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class John Nieves Camacho/Released)
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First female Thunderbird takes last flight at SJ

Posted 5/14/2013   Updated 5/15/2013 Email story   Print story


by Airman 1st Class Brittain Crolley
4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

5/14/2013 - SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Nicole Malachowski took her final flight as the 333rd Fighter Squadron commander in an F-15E Strike Eagle here, May 8, 2013.

The final flight marks another milestone in her illustrious career, which includes being the first female pilot to be selected to any U.S. military high-performance jet team.

"My last flight in the F-15E was bittersweet indeed," Malachowski said. "It was a blue-sky day and I had the chance to fly an air-to-air training mission for the last time. All I could think about was how grateful I am to the Air Force for letting me fly the world's greatest fighter these past 14 years."

Malachowski joined the Air Force Thunderbirds in November 2005 to train as the No. 3 jet in the right-wing position in the diamond formation. During her two-year tour with the show team, she completed approximately 140 performances.

Staying true to the Thunderbirds motto, Malachowski's decorated career has proven her worthy as one of "America's Ambassadors in Blue."

She has held numerous positions of leadership, including her most recent as the commander of the 333rd FS, one of only two F-15E Strike Eagle training squadrons in the entire Air Force. As a student and instructor, she has accumulated more than 2,100 flying hours. She has also flown in support of more than 25 combat missions, including Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.

"I'm so appreciative of the men and women I've had the chance to serve with," Malachowski said. "It's been a great ride in the F-15E community."

Although Malachowski's calling as a fighter pilot has come to an end for the time being, her successful background leaves little doubt that she will flourish in her next endeavor as a student at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.

1/8/2014 5:48:17 AM ET
I was so inspired by Lt. Col Malachowski when I was 11 years old that I wrote to her. I didn't expect that she'd respond but she wrote back with advice that I still follow to this day. I'm now a 19 year old engineering student hoping to pursue a career in the Navy. Good luck with everything Lt. Col You continue to be an inspiration
Kat, CA
5/21/2013 9:24:35 PM ET
Writer even FiFi will tell you that Sarah Johnson was the first female Thunderbird Fifi was the first female Thunderbird pilot. Both of the ladies are awesome incredible professionals and the Team is immensely proud of them both. They are wonderful role models for today's young women.
Jim, Seminole FL
5/16/2013 7:19:14 AM ET
Congratulations Nicole. You are my idol.
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