Blue Angels Select First Female F/A-18 Demonstration Pilot

The U.S. Navy flight demonstration team, the Blue Angels, perform at the Spirit of St. Louis Airshow, June 11, 2022. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chris Williamson) In the box: Lt. Amanda Lee, the first female F/A-18 demonstration pilot selected by the team.

Lt. Amanda Lee has been selected as part of the six new officers for the 2023.

The U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, announced on July 18, 2022, the selection of six new officers that will join the team for the 2023 air show season. The squadron selected two F/A-18E/F Super Hornet pilots, an events coordinator, a C-130J Super Hercules pilot for “Fat Albert”, an aviation maintenance officer and a flight surgeon to replace the officers that will leave at the end of the 2022 airshow season.

Among those team members selected this year is the squadron’s first woman F/A-18E/F demonstration pilot. As mentioned in the press release, “for over 55 years, hundreds of women have served with the Blue Angels representing the very best of the Navy and Marine Corps”, including the first female pilot selected in 2015 to fly “Fat Albert”, Maj. Katie Higgins Cook, which served for about two years with the team.

The U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, selected six new officers to join the team for the for the 2023 air show season. Lt. Amanda Lee, of Mounds View, Minn., is currently assigned to the “Gladiators” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106. She graduated from Old Dominion University in 2013. (Photo By Chief Petty Officer Paul Archer)

Lt. Lee, callsign “Stalin”, is not new to the airshow arena. In fact, she is currently one of the pilots of VFA-106’s Rhino Demo Team out of Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia. She is also a flight instructor, as VFA-106 is the East Coast Fleet Replacement Squadron, in charge of training Navy and Marine Corps F/A-18 pilots and WSOs.

Upon searching online, a bio released in 2019 provides more details about Lt. Lee, including the fact that she was an enlisted Aviation Electronics Technician before becoming a Naval Aviator:

LT Amanda “Stalin” Lee grew up in Mounds View, Minnesota. While attending the University of Minnesota in Duluth and working at UPS, she decided to enlist in the Navy, graduating from Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, Illinois in 2007. Her successful enlisted career as an Aviation Electronics Technician led to her selection into the Seaman-to-Admiral (STA-21) Commissioning Program. LT Lee received a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry at Old Dominion University, and earned her commission in August 2013. She was designated a Naval Aviator in April 2016 and recently completed a deployment aboard the USS HARRY S. TRUMAN (CVN 75), in support of Dynamic Force Employment (DFE), Operation INHERENT RESOLVE (OIR), as well as numerous exercises with NATO Allies.

“We had an overwhelming number of applicants from all over the globe this year,” said Capt. Brian Kesselring, commanding officer and flight leader of the Blue Angels. “We look forward to training our fantastic new team members, passing on the torch, and watching the incredible things this team will accomplish in 2023.”

The  officers selected for the 2023 airshow season include:

F/A-18E/F Demonstration Pilots:

-Lt. Cmdr. Thomas Zimmerman, of Baltimore, Md., is currently assigned to the “Red Rippers” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 11. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 2009.

-Lt. Amanda Lee, of Mounds View, Minn., is currently assigned to the “Gladiators” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106. She graduated from Old Dominion University in 2013.

Events Coordinator:

– Lt. Cmdr. Brian Vaught, of Englewood, Colo., is a naval flight officer currently assigned to the Naval School of Aviation Safety. He graduated from the University of Colorado in 2008.

C-130 Demonstration Pilot:

-Marine Corps Capt. Samuel Petko, of Osceola, Ind., is a KC-130J Hercules pilot currently assigned to the “Sumos” of Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron (VMGR) 152. He graduated from Indiana University in 2014.

Dealing with the Maintenance Officer, Lt. Cmdr. Greg Jones, of Cary, N.C., is an aviation maintenance officer currently assigned to Pre-Commissioning Unit John F. Kennedy (CVN 79). He graduated from Elon University in 2008; while the Flight Surgeon, Lt. Philippe Warren, of Williamsburg, Va. is a flight surgeon currently assigned to the “Fighting Griffins” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 266. He graduated from the University of Virginia in 2014.


Before they can begin working on the 2023 airshow season, Lt. Lee and her five colleagues selected this year will report to the squadron in September for a two-month turnover period. Upon completion of the 2022 show season, which concludes in November with the Blue Angels Homecoming Air Show at NAS Pensacola, the team will embark on a rigorous five-month training program at NAS Pensacola and Naval Air Facility El Centro, California.

About Stefano D'Urso
Stefano D'Urso is a freelance journalist and contributor to TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in Industral Engineering he's also studying to achieve a Master Degree in Aerospace Engineering. Electronic Warfare, Loitering Munitions and OSINT techniques applied to the world of military operations and current conflicts are among his areas of expertise.