Wednesday, March 16, 2011

RetroNews: Pilot inducted into women's aviation hall of fame

March 19, 2008, Air Force website: Pilot inducted into women's aviation hall of fame
by Staff Sgt. Jeremy Larlee
Air Force News Agency

3/19/2008 - SAN DIEGO (AFPN) -- In the months since her last flight as the Thunderbirds No. 3 right wing pilot, Maj. Nicole Malachowski has had a hard time putting her accomplishment of being the first woman to fly on a U.S. military flight demonstration team into a proper perspective.

At the San Diego Air & Space Museum March 14, she was blindsided by an emotional moment that placed her achievements into focus.

The visit to the museum was part of the 19th Annual International Women in Aviation Conference held here March 12 through 15. The conference was attended by more than 3,200 people.

The conference included an exhibit hall, speeches by numerous aviation legends, professional development classes and ended with the induction of Major Malachowski and into the Women in Aviation International's Pioneer Hall of Fame. Nancy Love, Geraldine Mock, Margaret Ringenberg and the Women's Section of the Air Transport Auxilary were inducted as well.

Earlier in the year, Major Malachowski donated one of her show suits to the museum, which had turned it into a display in time for the conference. The major said she got kind of misty eyed and had what she called a "nonfighter pilot moment" and had to excuse herself for a few minutes to get composed.

"I'm 33 years old and looking at something that I wore in so many airshows displayed in a museum," she said. "People were just looking at it and taking photos and standing there. I realized the significance of what I have done and how I could inspire others."

She said it was an honor to attend the conference and she enjoyed being in the ranks of historic female aviators.

"Women have been involved in aviation since the time of hot air balloons," Major Malachowski said. "It's only normal to me that women are going to add their strength and skills to the effort of pushing aviation forward."

The major said one of the highlights for her in the conference was interacting with members of the Women Airforce Service Pilots, which was an organization essential in freeing up male pilots for combat service and duties in World War II. The women would transport aircraft throughout the U.S. and Canada. They also assisted in training pilots. Thirty-eight women died while performing these duties.

"We have to honor the accomplishments and courage of the Women Airforce Service Pilots," Major Malachowski said. "People think it is great that these women were flying fighter aircraft 60 years ago. It is not remarkable because they were women. It is remarkable because they were there in defense of the free world and helped bring our country and allies to victory. I know I had the Thunderbirds experience and I'm standing here today in this wonderful uniform because of the contributions and sacrifices of people like them."

The conference was also attended by more than 250 military people. In her duties as a security forces member, Senior Airman Tara Currah has spent a lot of time guarding aircraft while stationed at McChord Air Force Base, Wash. She said she really enjoyed the professional development courses in the conference.

"It has been inspiring to see so many powerful women," she said. "It makes you feel like you can accomplish anything if you put your mind to it."

The Airman also had a chance to speak with Major Malachowski.

The major said her mantra has always been that actions speak louder than words.

"I wanted to show through my actions that women are capable of anything," she said. "I did my best and I hope I represented our Air Force with the respect it deserves."

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