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Navy to Honor First Female Fighter Pilot with Female-Piloted Flyover at Funeral

Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia Beach, Virginia – ENS Rosemary Conatser (later Mariner) at the controls of a fleet composite Squadron Two, VC-2, S-2 Tracker Antisubmarine Aircraft. January 9, 1975. Via U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command.

This post has been updated to correct the name of Cmdr. Paige Blok, which was misspelled in an initial version of the Navy’s press release.

The Navy will say goodbye to its first female fighter pilot with its first all-female flyover, the service told USNI News on Wednesday. 

Retired Capt. Rosemary Mariner, who served in the Navy from 1973 to 1997, had a career full of firsts: she was among the first women to earn her pilot wings in 1974, was the first woman to fly a tactical fighter jet in 1975, and was the first woman to command a naval aviation squadron in 1990, among others achievements.

Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia Beach, VA – ENS Rosemary Conaster (later Mariner) makes pre-flight checks of the main gear of a fleet composite squadron two, VC-2, S-2 tracker antisubmarine aircraft. Via U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command.

To honor not only her achievements but also her work as an educator and mentor – to female pilots in particular – during and after her naval career, the Navy will perform its first all-female flyover during Mariner’s funeral on Saturday.

Naval Air Force Atlantic spokesman Cmdr. Dave Hecht told USNI News that the Navy had selected all female pilots to participate in this flyover, which is a first for the service, as well as one of two ground crew being female. Mariner had personally mentored some of the women involved in the flyover, he added.

Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia Beach, VA – ENS Rosemary Conaster (later Mariner) in the cockpit of a fleet composite Squadron Two, VC-2, S-2 tracker antisubmarine aircraft. She is a pilot of the squadron. January 9, 1975. Via U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command.

According to an obituary, Mariner “graduated from Purdue University with a degree in aeronautics at 19. Captain Mariner was one of the first eight women selected to fly military aircraft in 1973. After flight training in 1974, she became the Navy’s first female jet pilot flying the A-4[E/L] and the A-7E Corsair II.”

A huge loss for our nation. Rosemary was a remarkable person, an incomparable aviator and a badass. RIP, Captain. We stand on the shoulders of giants like Rosemary Mariner. https://t.co/yYERT5w3sh

In 1990, then-Cmdr. Mariner assumed command of Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron (VAQ-34) at Naval Air Station Pt. Mugu in California, becoming the first woman to command a Navy aviation squadron.

Even after commanding an operational squadron during Operation Desert Shield, Mariner wasn’t done finding barriers to break down: In 1982, she became one of the first females to serve aboard a U.S. Navy warship, USS Lexington (CV-16), and qualify as a Surface Warfare Officer.

Mariner retired from the U.S. Navy in 1997 after obtaining the rank of captain and logging 17 carrier arrested landings and more than 3,500 flight hours in 15 different aircraft, according to the Navy.

Mariner died on Jan. 24 after a years-long battle with ovarian cancer. She was 65.

 

The following is the Navy’s statement regarding the flyover for retired Capt. Rosemary Mariner: 

NORFOLK, Va. – To honor the life and legacy of a female pioneer in Naval aviation, the U.S. Navy will conduct the first ever all-female flyover this Saturday, Feb. 2 in Maynardville, TN. Officially referred to as a “Missing Man Flyover,” the tribute will be part of the funeral service for retired Navy Captain, Rosemary Mariner, who passed away on Jan. 24 following a long and brave fight with cancer.

After completing flight training in 1974, Mariner was designated a naval aviator and received her Wings of Gold to became the Navy’s first female jet pilot, flying the A-4E/L “Skyhawk” and the A-7E “Corsair II”. She also was the first female military aviator to achieve command of an operational air squadron. During Operation Desert Storm, Mariner commanded Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron Thirty-Four (VAQ-34). In 1982, she reached yet another milestone by being among the first females to serve aboard a U.S. Navy warship, USS Lexington, and qualifying as a Surface Warfare Officer.

Mariner retired from the U.S. Navy in 1997 after obtaining the rank of Captain and logging seventeen carrier arrested landings, or “traps,” and completing over 3,500 flight hours in fifteen different aircraft.

The Missing Man Flyover is a special tribute honoring the service of aviators who have died serving their country. The maneuver features four aircraft flying above the funeral service in formation as one of the aircraft leaves the formation and climbs vertically into the heavens.

All of the aviators participating in the flyover are from squadrons based at Naval Air Station (NAS) Oceana and will be flying F/A-18E/F “Super Hornets.”

The participants are:

  • Stacy Uttecht, Commanding Officer, Strike Fighter Squadron Thirty-Two (VFA-32)
  • Leslie Mintz, Executive Officer, VFA-213
  • Cmdr. Paige Blok, VFA-32
  • Cmdr. Danielle Thiriot, VFA-106
  • Cmdr. Jennifer Hesling, NAS Oceana
  • Christy Talisse, VFA-211
  • Amanda Lee, VFA-81
  • Emily Rixey, Strike Fighter Weapons School Atlantic

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Categories: Aviation
Megan Eckstein

About Megan Eckstein

Megan Eckstein is a staff writer for USNI News. She previously covered Congress for Defense Daily and the U.S. surface navy and U.S. amphibious operations as an associate editor for Inside the Navy.