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Meet the U.S. Navy’s first Black woman tactical jet pilot

Emerald Pellot
·2-min read

The U.S. Navy is celebrating a long-overdue milestone. After 110 years in aviation, it has finally welcomed its first Black woman tactical jet pilot.

Lt. jg. Madeline Swegle’s completion of the tactical air training program will enable her to fly fighter jets like the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and the F-35C Joint Strike Fighter.

The Navy made efforts in 2020 to combat its issue with race and gender inclusivity. A 2018 investigation of racial bias by Military.com found that out of 1,404 navy pilots who flew F/A-18 Hornets, only 26 were Black and only 33 were women — all of them white but one.

On June 30, the Navy announced a task force to address the issue.

“We are at a critical inflection point for our nation and our Navy and I want to ensure that we are fully responding to this moment as we work to facilitate enduring change,” Navy Chief of Personnel Public Affairs John Nowell Jr. said in a press statement about the task force.

Swegle comes from a too-short line of glass-ceiling-breaking Black women pilots in the military. Capt. Vernice Armour became the first Black women pilot in the Marine Crops in 2001. And over 20 years prior, Lt. Cmdr. Brenda Robinson became the first Black woman graduate from the Aviation Officer Candidate School in 1980.

Swegle is expected to receive her wings of gold this July.

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