By: Haley Guerin
What would it be like to hold a position no woman ever held before? Well, simply ask Lindsay Underwood. She is the first-ever female pilot to command the U.S. Presidential Helicopter, shining in its new glory. It is a Sikorsky VH-92A that originally came into service via the Marine Corps. There is no doubt that Underwood encountered obstacles she had to overcome along the way, but her resilience and determination are what make her the perfect fit for this special job.
Underwood grew up in Niwot, Colorado where she was exposed to aviation. Friends of her family helped introduce her to this new, exciting world of flying and she soon fell in love. She attended the University of Colorado to pursue her passion and earned a degree in aerospace engineering-a difficult study to master. Yet master it she did, graduating with a Bachelor of Science. The road was not easy and consisted of many late nights studying and pressing her nose to the grindstone, but Underwood stayed focus on her ultimate goal: flying.
Her hard work certainly paid off. Underwood soon joined the U.S. Navy and became a commissioned officer due to obtaining a four year degree and enduring rigorous training. During her time with the Navy, she was able to finish a program called Introductory Flight Screening. This is a fast-paced, difficult program that is required for students to reach the next level of training-primary flight training. Underwood was required to commit herself fully to the program, including on holidays and weekends. She stuck with it and performed her solo cross-country flight in a Cessna 172.
The time had finally come: Underwood had successfully completed the program after countless hours of hard work and she was ready to tackle the next challenge ahead. She started on the path of primary flight training in the Texas city of Corpus Christi. Primary training is no easy task, despite what its name may erroneously imply. It consists of six different stages that test the physical and academic abilities of students while weeding out students along the way based on how their performance compares to that of their peers. Underwood stayed strong under the pressure, learning how to continually strive to be a better student and aviator. With unwavering faith and confidence in herself, she rose to the proud level of advanced training.
Underwood carried out her advanced training in Pensacola, Florida. Her performance yet again proved excellent as she was selected for helicopter training. This would mark a pivotal time in her life as she unearthed her love of flying helicopters. During this exciting period, she also received her “wings of gold”- a pair of golden wings given to Navy students upon successfully completing their flight training and becoming a pilot of a specified military aircraft.
Next, Underwood became a member of many helicopter squadrons. Through this experience, she became even more fascinated by helicopters and met different people who also shared this passion. However, she found herself craving bold adventure. She responded to this call by enrolling in the U.S. Navy Test Pilot School located in Maryland. A test pilot is someone who flies aircraft to see what its performance is like. It is a job that calls for bravery and a willingness to try anything. In fact, Underwood has flown over thirty different types of aircraft! By trying out various kinds of aircraft, Underwood worked hard to figure out which ones would help warfighters with their mission. Helping other individuals while serving this country was a rewarding experience she would never forget.
Always seeking a new challenge and climbing up the ladder, Underwood later earned her title as Presidential Helicopter Platform Coordinator, making aviation history. This esteemed title not only entails flying the helicopter, but also managing daily tasks for testing the Navy’s VIP helicopter operations. It is an exciting job that always keeps Underwood on her feet. Not only does it keep her on her feet, but it keeps the rest of the world on the edge of their seats as they proudly and eagerly watch the first female pilot of the Presidential Helicopter lead her team to success, carrying not only the President, but also the Vice President, Heads of State, Department of Defense Officials, and other important figures as needed.
As if Lindsay Underwood could not get any more impressive, she is also a member of the Ninety-Nines. This international organization of female pilots helps encourage women to be leaders in the aviation industry and truly spread their wings. Underwood has definitely made an impact by empowering flyGIRLS to suit up, buckle in, and take to the skies!
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