Group of female navy pilots soars to make history (includes video story)

Lieutenant Michelle Espinal walks a path that very few have experienced.

She is one of five female pilots who belong to strike fighter squadron 213, the fighting Black Lions.

“Growing up, there’s nothing I ever thought that I couldn’t do because I was a female,” she says. “It just, it’s not how the world was when I was born.”

The Navy was the first branch of the U.S. military to welcome female aviators in 1974. But it wasn’t until nearly two decades later, 1993 when the military finally allowed women to fly combat missions.

Today, women make up about 12 percent of all navy pilots.

“There are some squadrons that still don’t have very many women, especially not aircrew side,” said Lieutenant Rebecca Ryan. “But it’s awesome, seeing more and more women out there on the flight line.”

Now as these five women soar to new heights above Virginia Beach, they become role models for the next generation of navy pilots.

Zitlali Solache is a student in Florida International University, pursuing her Masters degree in Spanish-Language Broadcast Journalism. Zitlali Solache is Mexican American and has a passion for storytelling and news. She has interned for WPBT PBS, WSVN Channel 7 and STEP Univision. After graduation, Zitlali aspires to become a reporter/anchor in her hometown Miami, FL.