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History was made in the skies over Super Bowl LVII on Feb. 12, as the traditional pregame U.S. military flyover was conducted by an all-female team of pilots for the first time. A diamond formation of four U.S. Navy aircraft, from three different tactical aircraft squadrons, flew over State Farm Stadium at 300 knots as the last notes of the Star-Spangled Banner were sang.
The formation included two F/A-18F Super Hornets from the “Flying Eagles” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 122; an F-35C Lightning II from the “Warhawks” of VFA-97; and an EA-18G Growler from the “Vikings” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 129.
The all-female team of pilots was selected to “commemorate 50 years of women flying in the U.S. Navy.”
The first eight women enrolled in flight school in Pensacola, Florida, in 1973, and six of those eight women earned their Wings of Gold one year later. They’re known as “The First Six.”
“Since then, women have served, operated, and led at every level of naval aviation,” the U.S. Navy said in a press release. Currently, about 12 percent of U.S. Navy aviators are female.
The Super Bowl LVII flyover team consisted of seven women. In the two, two-seat Super Hornets were Lt Arielle Ash, Lt Saree Moreno, Lt Kathryn Martinez, and Lt Naomi Ngalle. In the EA-18G Growler were Lt Margaret Dente and Lt Lyndsay Evans. Lastly, piloting the F-35C was Lt Suzelle Thomas.
Martinez, a Naval Flight Officer assigned to VFA-122, was really looking forward to representing naval aviation at the 57th Super Bowl.
Prior to the event, she said: “It’s not a feeling I can even put into words. It doesn’t get bigger than the Super Bowl, and I am humbled and honored to be able to participate with my friends and fellow naval aviators as part of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
The crew had weeks to prepare for the flyover, and conducted a practice on the Friday before the big game. The squadrons staged and departed from Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, which is less than 10 miles from State Farm Stadium.
According to the U.S. Navy, the aircraft that took part in the flyover “represent the strike and electronic attack capability of the ‘Carrier Air Wing of the Future,’ providing advanced technology and enhanced flexibility to our military combatant commanders.”
The F-35C, which is the Navy variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, “sets new standards in weapon system integration, maintainability, combat radius and payload,” the Navy said. The F/A-18 Super Hornet, which entered fleet service in 1999, is known as the “backbone of the Navy’s carrier air wing,” and plays a “key strike fighter role against the advanced threats of the 21st century.” The EA-18G Growler — a variant of the F/A-18 — “combines the proven Super Hornet platform with a sophisticated electronic warfare suite that performs a variety of functions.”