*After nearly 110 years of naval aviation, a Black woman is set to be a U.S. Navy tactical pilot.
Lt. Madeline Swegle will receive her “Wings of Gold” this month, according to the Naval Air Training Command. “BZ to Lt. j.g. Madeline Swegle on completing the Tactical Air (Strike) aviator syllabus,” the Chief of Naval Air Training wrote Thursday on Facebook, using the abbreviation BZ for Bravo Zulu, which means “well done.”
Lt. Swegle’s completion of the tactical air training program paves the way for her to fly fighter jets such as the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, the F-35C Joint Strike Fighter or the EA-18G Growler, according to the Navy Times.
Swegle’s accomplishment comes nearly 110 years after the beginning of naval aviation, which began when an aircraft, flown by Eugene Burton Ely, took off from the cruiser USS Birmingham anchored in the Chesapeake Bay on November 14, 1910. In 1974, Rosemary Mariner became the first woman in the Navy to fly a tactical jet. And in the 1980s, Brenda Robinson was the first African American woman to earn her wings of gold and become a Navy flight instructor, evaluator and VIP transport pilot.
The Navy has faced criticism for lack of diversity in its aviation programs. A 2018 investigation from Military.com found that Black pilots were scarce in the service, particularly in fighter units. Only 1.9% of all pilots assigned to the F/A-18 Hornet, EA-18 Growler, E-2 Hawkeye and C-2 Greyhound were Black. Out of 1,404 Hornet pilots, just 33 were female and 26 were Black.
On June 30, the Navy announced it created a special task force called “Task Force One Navy” to address the issues of “racism, sexism and other destructive biases and their impact on naval readiness.”