U.S. Air Force Thunderbird Pilot Making History

Major Caroline Jensen is the first female Reservist demonstration pilot for the Thunderbirds

By David Jeannot
|  Wednesday, Oct 31, 2012  |  Updated 10:01 PM EDT
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Major Caroline Jensen is the first female Reservist demonstration pilot in U.S. Air Force Thunderbird history. She will fly this weekend in the Wings Over Homestead Air Show.

Major Caroline Jensen is the first female Reservist demonstration pilot in U.S. Air Force Thunderbird history. She will fly this weekend in the Wings Over Homestead Air Show.

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Shattering the glass ceiling is one thing. Breaking the sound barrier is another.

Major Caroline Jensen has done both, becoming the first female Reservist demonstration pilot in U.S. Air Force Thunderbird history.

“I joined the Reserves not knowing that I would ever be able to be a Thunderbird one day, but the opportunity presented itself to me about a year and a half ago and I’m really proud to be here,” she said.

Jenson is what they call “Thunderbird 3.” She serves as the team’s right wing pilot, flying just a few inches from the flight leader in the diamond and delta formations. She’s flown for the last 17 years, flying everything from the T-37 and T-38 to the F-16.

“I was flying as a T-38 instructor at Sheppard Air Force Base in a reserve unit there when I got picked up to come to the Thunderbirds,” Jensen said.

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As she prepares for this weekend’s Wings Over Homestead Air Show, Jensen still gets that sense of excitement before taking flight

“People can expect a pretty well-rehearsed show when they come this weekend to Homestead Air Reserve Base,” she said.

Jensen said that as a young girl growing up in Wisconsin the Thunderbirds motivated her to become an Air Force officer – and since she’s reached her goal, she’s honored to inspire the next generation of Air Force airmen.

“Whatever your dream is in life, go for it. Just pick something, surround yourself with people who can help you achieve that dream, and go for it,” she said.

Hers is a male-dominated field. But Jensen’s crew chief is also a woman, Staff Sgt. Tacota LeMuel.

“We put our trust completely in our crew chiefs to make sure that the aircraft is ready to go, and we just hop in, we don’t look at anything,” Jensen said. “So they’re amazing and wonderful and we trust them with our lives every day we fly.”

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