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Air Force’s first female Viper pilot relieved of duty after two weeks

The first female pilot to lead the Viper team was asked to leave after two weeks on the job, the Air Force Times reported.

Capt. Zoe Kotnik was commander of the F-16 Viper Demo Team, a fleet that performs complicated aerial stunts at widely seen events such as the Super Bowl.

Col. Allen Herritage, director of public affairs at Air Combat Command, stated that Col. Derek O’Malley, 20th Fighter Wing commander, relieved Kotnik of command due to his “loss of confidence in her ability to lead and command.”

“We have thousands of airmen across our Air Force serving our country, and not one of them is perfect,” O’Malley told the Air Force Times. “As good people, like Capt. Kotnik, make mistakes, I want them to have the opportunity to learn from them without being under public scrutiny and to continue to be a part of this great service.”

Kotnik graduated from the Air Force Academy in 2011 and has accumulated more than 1,000 hours in aircraft during her time in service.

Kotnik’s hiring was announced on Twitter on Jan. 29, showing a photo of her with the caption, “In that instant, she knew she could fly her F-16 higher, further and faster than anyone else.”


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She will continue to serve in “non-supervisory role” in the Air Force’s 20th Fighter Wing, said Capt. Alannah Staver, a spokesperson for the unit.

Kotnik’s first Viper shows were scheduled for March 30 and 31 at the Naval Air Station Key West.

The unit will now be commanded by Maj. John Waters, who led the Viper team last year.

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