The Blue Angels are considered one of the most elite outfits in U.S. military aviation, and the addition of a female pilot to its ranks is both historically significant and no small feat, said Robert Thomas, the curator of the National Military History Center in Indiana.
“To get added to that group is extraordinary, seeing how far the military has come,” he said.
While women flew aid missions in World War II, no women flew in combat until Operation Desert Storm in 1991, Thomas said.
Blue Angels public affairs officer Lt. j.g. Amber Lynn Daniel said that Higgins’ addition to the team, along with Marine Capt. Corrie Mays, 34, of Marstons Mills, Mass., marks the first time in Blue Angels history that two female Marine Corps officers have been selected to serve on the team at the same time.
Whoever takes to the air first will break through a gender barrier, though neither is the first female member of the Blue Angels.
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Amy Redditt Tomlinson became the first woman to wear a Blue Angels number when she became Blue Angel No. 8 in 2010. But Tomlinson never performed, serving as an events coordinator and navigator.
Both Higgins and Mays will pilot the Blue Angels’ C-130 Hercules cargo plane known as “Fat Albert,” which rumbles low and slow over the crowds at air shows and can take off at a 45-degree angle using rocket boosters, a maneuver used in combat zones.
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