The first female F-35 pilot has taken flight.
Air Force Lt. Col. Christine Mau, deputy commander of the 33rd Fighter Wing Operations group, flew her first flight in an F-35A on May 5 at the pilot training school at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.
Mau, previously an F-15E Strike Eagle pilot, completed 14 simulator flights before taking to the skies.
"It wasn't until I was taxiing to the runway that it really struck me that I was on my own in the jet," Mau said in an Eglin news release. "I had a chase aircraft, but there was no weapons system officer or instructor pilot sitting behind me, and no one in my ear like in simulators."
Mau is the first female pilot in the F-35 program, which includes the Navy, Marine Corps and allied nations.
"Flying is a great equalizer," Mau said in the release. "The plane doesn't know or care about your gender as a pilot, nor do the ground troops who need your support. You just have to perform. That's all anyone cares about when you're up there – that you can do your job, and that you do it exceptionally well."
Mau has extensive combat experience in other aircraft, including being a part of the Air Force's first all-female combat sortie. In 2011 in Afghanistan, Mau worked with an all-female team of pilots, weapons systems officers, maintainers and mission planners on a close air support mission to help coalition and Afghan forces in Kunar Valley, Afghanistan.
Mau is the latest of 87 Air Force pilots trained on the F-35 at Eglin. The jet is slated for initial operating capability next year, with pilots also training at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona.