Women’s History Month- 1: Just 10 women make up elite cadre of B-2 pilots

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Retired Lt. Col. Jennifer Avery, No. 1
Retired Lt. Col. Jennifer Avery, No. 1, Spirit Number 278 (Air Force photograph by Staff Sgt. Sadie Colbert)
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In the B-2’s 30 year history, there have been nearly 700 people airborne in the two-person cockpit of the $2.2 billion stealth bomber. About 500 of them have been pilots, only 10 of whom have been women.

The 10th woman to become a B-2 pilot, Capt. Lauren Kram, graduated from her training course at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., Oct. 4, 2019.

“Nine incredible women have come before me, blazing this trail,” Kram says. “I feel honored to be among them and I know there will be many more of us that follow.”

Their collective story began 19 years ago in 2002. Each has a common theme of strength, perseverance, making a long-time dream come true, and inspiring future generations.

During the month of March, we will be featuring the 10 women.

Number One: Retired Lt. Col. Jennifer Avery, Spirit Number 278

Jennifer Avery made history on Feb. 12, 2002.

She was so excited, and nervous, that when she was collecting her parachute, helmet and other gear, she grabbed two right-handed gloves. Avery didn’t realize this until she was in the cockpit and it was time to taxi. So, she wore one glove backwards and hoped the instructor pilot sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with her didn’t notice. He did.

But, it in no way hindered Avery’s flight, which she completed successfully, becoming the first female pilot to fly the B-2 stealth bomber.

“It’s still surprising to hear. Shocking, actually. I feel shocked that it’s me, because I’m just me.”

Before her flight that day, the B-2’s two-person cockpit had to be modified with privacy curtains around the small toilet, which is necessary because the B-2 is capable of long-duration sorties with its lengthiest ever clocking in at 44 consecutive hours.

“To be able to fly such a unique aircraft that is the backbone of our nation’s nuclear-deterrence defense was a dream come true,” Avery said.

Her fascination with aviation started when she was just a child and her Uncle Bill took her into an aircraft simulator at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C. It continued during her college years at Georgia Institute of Technology, where she loved hearing the sound of F-15 fighter jets buzzing over her apartment.

After graduating and commissioning as a second lieutenant in the Air Force, Avery earned her wings and was sent to Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., to fly the B-1 Lancer. She was the first female pilot to fly the B-1 in combat.

Not long after becoming a B-2 pilot, she was the first female to pilot the stealth bomber in combat, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.

“I’m proud of myself,” Avery said, but at the same time she didn’t want her gender to be a factor in her achievements.

“I didn’t want to use it to my advantage, ever,” she said. “I didn’t want that to be a reason that I succeeded. I never wanted anyone to think I had gotten to where I was because of being a woman.”

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