First female commander of F-16 demo squad fired after 2 weeks over… inability to command
Captain Zoe ‘Sis’ Kotnik had been appointed as commander of the ACC F-16 Viper demo team just two weeks prior. The demonstration team performs at air shows and events across the country, showcasing the F-16’s capabilities.
Col. Derek O’Malley, commander of the 20th Fighter Wing, said in a Facebook post that he was dismissing Kotnik because he had “lost confidence in her ability to lead the team.”
“It was exciting to have the first female demo team pilot here at Shaw, but I’m also just as excited about the many other females that are serving with great distinction across our Air Force,” O’Malley said in his Facebook statement. He stressed that Kotnik was a “good person” and deserved to learn from her mistakes “without being under public scrutiny.”
Kotnik’s promotion came just weeks before the scheduled release of a new superhero film, Captain Marvel, which stars actress Brie Larson as an F-16 pilot – a coincidence that has raised suspicions on social media that there may be more to the story.
Revealingly, a tweet announcing Kotnik’s appointment on January 29 has a very superhero feel, with a photograph of the female captain rendered to look like a comic book panel.
“In that instant, she knew she could fly her F-16 higher, further and faster than anyone else,” the text under the photograph reads. The Air Force Times described the tweet as a “nod” to the upcoming superhero film.
According to the BBC, the USAF hopes to use the “buzz” around Captain Marvel to boost recruitment.
Some social media users expressed vexation with the announcement, accusing O’Malley of not being forthcoming about Kotnik’s sudden departure.
“It looks like you just want to throw her under the bus. Either give us the full truth, or quit dragging her through the mud with this BS,” wrote Facebook user Rebecca Brown.
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