Female Combat Aviator Will Speak to Upper School

Heather Penney will speak to Upper School students Nov. 12, and subsequently engage in a roundtable with Honors College students. Never heard of Heather Penney? As one of the first women in combat aviation, her story is nothing short of remarkable, and her visit well-timed near Veterans Day.

"Late in the morning of the Tuesday [9/11] that changed everything, Lt. Heather 'Lucky' Penney was on a runway at Andrews Air Force Base and ready to fly. She had her hand on the throttle of an F-16 and she had her orders: Bring down United Airlines Flight 93. The day’s fourth hijacked airliner seemed to be hurtling toward Washington. Penney, one of the first two combat pilots in the air that morning, was told to stop it." Read the full Washington Post article. 

Heather Penney attended Purdue University from 1992 to 1997, receiving her B.A. in English in 1995, and her M.A. in American Studies in 1997. In 1994, she helped create the Purdue Air Race Team, the first collegiate team to race in the Air Race Classic. It was during her graduate studies that she learned that Congress had opened combat aviation to women. She applied to, and was selected by, the 121st Fighter Squadron to fly the F-16 Viper.

Heather has held the position of Director, USAF Air Superiority Programs, Aviation Systems, Lockheed Martin Washington Operations since 2006. In this position, Heather maintains close liaison with the F-22 and F-35 Program Office, the Air Force, the Air National Guard, and Congress on all matters relating to the F-22 and F-35 programs. She led the 2006 F-22 Collier Trophy team; and is a LEAD (Leadership and Executive Assessment and Development) graduate.

A mother to two young daughters, Penney also actively supports numerous charitable organizations and aviation museums; has been a keynote speaker for the USNA Character Capstone Seminar and Clemson University’s Leadership Summit; is a Jimmy Doolittle Fellow recipient; a Purdue University Emerging Voices Award recipient; and has been honored by the Red Cross. 
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