What led to Capt. Zoe Kotnik, the first female air pilot o lead the Viper team to be relieved of her command role – two weeks into being on the job?
Disconcert has come to the fore after the first female pilot to lead the Viper team was asked to leave after two weeks on the job.
Capt. Zoe Kotnik was commander of the F-16 Viper Demo Team when she was earlier this week relieved of her leadership role, the Air Force Times reported.
The fleet which Kotnik led is best known for performing complicated aerial stunts at widely seen events such as the Super Bowl.
Col. Allen Herritage, director of public affairs at Air Combat Command, stated that Col. Derek O’Malley, 20th Fighter Wing commander, relieved Kotnik of command due to his ‘loss of confidence in her ability to lead and command.’
‘We have thousands of airmen across our Air Force serving our country, and not one of them is perfect,’ O’Malley told the Air Force Times. ‘As good people, like Capt. Kotnik, make mistakes, I want them to have the opportunity to learn from them without being under public scrutiny and to continue to be a part of this great service.’
It remained unclear if there had been a specific incident which may have undermined the Air Force’s confidence in the female pilot. While others wondered if Capt. Kotnik found herself under attack by her overwhelmingly male peers.
Capt. Zoe Kotnik: ‘Girly Girl?’
Kotnik graduated from the Air Force Academy in 2011 and has accumulated more than 1,000 hours in aircraft during her time in service.
Kotnik’s hiring was announced on Twitter on Jan. 29, showing a photo of her with the caption, ‘In that instant, she knew she could fly her F-16 higher, further and faster than anyone else.’
She will continue to serve in ‘non-supervisory role’ in the Air Force’s 20th Fighter Wing, said Capt. Alannah Staver, a spokesperson for the unit.
Of intrigue, Kotnik referred to herself on Instagram as a ‘Chick Fighter Pilot’ & ‘Girly Girl’. Her social media page has since been removed.
Kotnik’s first Viper shows were scheduled for March 30 and 31 at the Naval Air Station Key West.
The unit will now be commanded by Maj. John Waters, who led the Viper team last year.