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Female Air Force crew at Grand Forks breaks flight records

Apr. 4, 2014 - 08:46AM   |  
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GRAND FORKS, N.D. — An all-female crew at Grand Forks Air Force Base has made history by flying a drone across North Dakota nonstop for nearly 1 ˝ days.

The 34.3-hour flight of the Global Hawk unmanned aircraft in late March was the longest flight without in-air refueling for a military aircraft, according to the base. It broke the record by a little more than an hour.

The effort dubbed “Flight of the Lady Hawk” was accomplished by a flight and support crew of 50 women with the 69th Reconnaissance Group who decided to do it in recognition of Women’s History Month. It was the brainchild of Lt. Col. Amanda Brandt, commander of the 348th Reconnaissance Squadron, after she learned there were several female pilots due to join the unit.

“I started to do the math (and found) we probably had enough that we could do an endurance flight,” she said. “I’ve seen many of these flights and they’ve always had to reach out to other squadrons or units. This time, I said, ‘We can do this with our squadron.’”

The crew also broke the female flight crew endurance record, which had stood at 18 hours.

Senior Airman Cassie Gilbert, who was responsible for selecting the pilots to fly the mission, is expecting a daughter and said she knows what she will tell her child about the experience.

“I was part of a great new squadron and part of something that will be great for the Air Force,” she said.

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