Over the weekend, aviations buffs at the Marine Corps Beaufort Air Show in Beaufort, SC witnessed history in the making by watching Marine Corps Capt. Katie Higgins fly with the legendary Blue Angels. What makes this so great is that Capt. Higgins is the Angels’ first female pilot to join the team since it’s launch in 1946. That’s 69 years ago.
“I saw the Blue Angels fly when I was a young kid,” Higgins said. “I was definitely inspired by that.”
Not only is Higgins the first female pilot in the Blue Angels, she’s also a third-generation military aviator. “My dad was an A-7 pilot initially, and then he transferred to the F-18 Hornet, which is actually out here on the line,” Higgins said. “It’s a great family legacy to have, that’s for sure.”
Now she’s an inspiration to this generation’s young girls.
“I think by including a lady on the team, that just shows little girls and guys that women can do whatever they put their mind to […] Little girls have told me that they didn’t even know that ladies could fly aircraft, that women could be in the cockpit.”
Women have been in the cockpit for the American military for over 20 years, but it’s taken this long for a woman to be chosen to join the Blue Angels team. Capt. Tom Frosch, commander of the Blue Angels, said that it wasn’t they they weren’t ready for a female pilot to join them, “We were just looking for the right person.” Frosch was one of the 17 officers that voted Higgins into the team.
Many critics thought it convenient timing that Higgins was chosen as the Blue Angels’ next pilot after the termination of a former Angel who was found guilty of allowing “obvious and repeated instances of sexual harassment” and “condoning widespread lewd practices.” To that Frosch said, “When we selected the members of that team, I was given zero pressure to select a female.”
“I would tell ’em to watch the demo,” Higgins said. “They can’t tell the difference between mine and the other two pilots on here because I fly it just as well as they do.”
Higgins flies the Angels’ C-130, nicknamed “Fat Albert.” Sure, it’s not a fighter jet like the F-18s they have on the line, but that doesn’t make her role in the show any less integral. The things she gets to do with a carrier is nothing short of amazing in itself. And frankly, flying the C-130 was her choice.
“I definitely didn’t come on the team to break any barriers or anything like that, that definitely wasn’t my agenda,” Higgins said. “It just so happened that I was the first female to perform in a demo here, and if that is inspiring to people, if that’s inspiring to little girls around the country, then I’m doing my job.”