EL CENTRO, Calif. – The Afghan Air Force’s first female fixed-wing pilot visited and flew with the Blue Angels at Naval Air Facility El Centro, California this week.
Capt. Niloofar Rahmani flew her orientation flight in the back seat of a Blue Angels F/A-18 Hornet with Narrator and VIP pilot, Blue Angel #7, Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss.
“This was a wonderful opportunity to share the pride and professionalism of the United States Navy and Marine Corps with a representative of another nation,” said Blue Angels Commanding Officer and Flight Leader Capt. Tom Frosch. “It also provided the opportunity for our squadron to ask questions and learn more about Afghanistan’s Air Force.”
“When I heard I was going to fly with the Blue Angels, I was so excited,” Rahmani said. “That was the first time that I felt [G-forces] while flying.”
Rahmani was recruited to join the Afghan Air Force in 2010 at the age of 18. She graduated from flight school and completed her first solo flight in 2012. Rahmani also attended advanced flight school and qualified to fly the C-208, a military cargo aircraft. She said she hopes to fly the C-130 in the future.
Rahmani’s road to success has been challenging and dangerous, she said.
“It was not easy finishing flight school, it was very hard, but someone had to accept the risk so that other women can do what they dream,” Rahmani explained.
She and her family received death threats from the Taliban because of her career choice, but she says it’s her responsibility to be an example for young girls coming up behind her.
“You can’t just see yourself as a woman, but as a human and believe in yourself,” Rahmani said.
First Lady Michelle Obama recently honored Rahmani’s bravery, commitment, and empowerment of women and girls in Afghanistan. Rahmani and nine other women were awarded the Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award for 2015 at an award ceremony last week.