Navy's first female combat pilot reassigned to cargo jet squadron

March 01, 1995|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,Sun Staff Writer

The first woman who qualified to fly Navy combat aircraft has been reassigned to fly a cargo jet in a support squadron, Navy officials said yesterday.

Lt. Shannon Workman, 28, who was removed from the USS Eisenhower in January because she had trouble landing her EA-6B radar jamming jet on the aircraft carrier, is to report in April to the Naval Air Station in Norfolk to train as a pilot on the cargo plane, said Cmdr. Kevin Wensing, a spokesman for the Atlantic Fleet.

Lieutenant Workman, a 1988 Naval Academy graduate from Cumberland, was taken off the Eisenhower after officials found her carrier landings to be inconsistent. Lt. Cmdr. Gerald DiLeonardo, who flew in the same squadron, was ordered off the ship for the same reason.

Ten female aviators, including six pilots, remain on the Eisenhower and are performing well, Navy officials said.

Lieutenant Workman, who declined interview requests, will be a co-pilot of a C-9B, a cargo and passenger jet, while she spends the next 12 to 18 months training to become a command pilot.

An aviator evaluation board of several officers and a flight surgeon aboard the Eisenhower found in December that Lieutenant Workman could continue flying but not in carrier-based aircraft. The board also found that Commander DiLeonardo should return to the squadron's base at Whidbey Island, Wash., for further training.

The findings were approved by Vice Adm. Richard C. Allen, commander of the Naval Air Force, Atlantic Fleet. Lieutenant Workman received her orders last week.

The board deemed Lieutenant Workman an "outstanding officer" with an "excellent record," one Navy source said, but found "inconsistencies" in her landings.

Lieutenant Workman became the Navy's first combat-qualified female pilot in May 1993, one month after Congress lifted the ban on women flying combat missions. Seven months later, she reported to the Eisenhower, the first Navy combat ship with women on board. There are about 400 woman in the 5,000-member crew.

The Eisenhower set sail in October for a six-month deployment to the Mediterranean and Adriatic, where Lieutenant Workman flew scores of combat patrols, including some into southern Iraq.

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