Air Force F-35A Demo Pilot Motivates Civil Air Patrol Cadets

U.S. Air Force F-35A Demonstration pilot Maj. Kristin Wolfe during the Atlanta Airshow in May 2021. (Charles A Atkeison)

ATLANTA — The only female commander of a U.S. Air Force demonstration squadron reached out to the cadets of the Civil Air Patrol on Thursday to inspire and motivate the future of America’s military.

Maj. Kristin “Beo” Wolfe, commander and pilot of the F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team, spoke to the teenagers via video conference. The CAP cadets of Forsyth County hope to follow in the footsteps of officers such as Wolfe with a career in the military.

The Civil Air Patrol is an extension of the Air Force, providing communities with volunteer services including search and rescue. CAP also offers support during natural disasters and provides humanitarian services.

Civil Air Patrol cadet Eliza Vega poses a question for Maj. BEO Wolfe on Thursday. (Charles A Atkeison)

“Major Wolfe is kind and down to Earth,” Eliza Vega, CAP Cadet Senior Airman, said following the conference. “She has inspired me to achieve my goals no matter what obstacles I might face.”

Maj. Wolfe opened with an informative slideshow presentation, providing a wealth of information for the teens. Several of the cadets had watched her perform at the Atlanta Airshow in May and were in awe of her flying capabilities.

“The tactical pitch is one of my favorite maneuvers,” Maj. Wolfe told a group of 25 cadets. “It’s pretty impressive to see an airplane sliding away from the crowd, plus the inverted passes are a favorite, too.”

Vega and her family attended the Atlanta Airshow featuring the F-35A Demo Team. Eliza and her sister Juli – herself a cadet – were excited to learn that a female was piloting the stealth fighter during the air show.

As the military’s first female single-ship aerial demonstration pilot, Maj. Wolfe discussed how she has worked to earn her position. Beo offered advice for college and the leap into the military’s Officer Training School.

Maj. Wolfe details the $400K F-35A pilot’s helmet during her video conference. (Charles A Atkeison)

“Do your best in everything you are doing – that’s for anybody out there,” Maj. Wolfe added. “Try to be a well-rounded individual doing things you are interested in whether it’s volunteering or sports, and maintain a good GPA.”

Wolfe graduated from the University of Alabama with a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering. A few weeks later, she began training as a pilot in the Air Force, earning her silver wings in 2012.

She served as pilot of the F-22A Raptor, and three years later, transitioned to the F-35A. Maj. Wolfe has has logged nearly 1,000 total fighter jet hours in the two fifth-generation aircraft.

When she’s not flying, Wolfe enjoys water skiing and hiking in the mountains of the mid west.

Maj. Kristin Wolfe pilots the F-35A Lightning II at Hill Air Force Base, Utah in May. (USAF/Capt. Kip Sumner)

“I was impressed with the design of the F-35 helmet,” Cadet Ian Bowen said. “I enjoyed hearing about the maneuvers that set the three different F-35s apart.”

The F-35A Demo Team is made up of its pilot and several support personnel, including aircraft maintainers and logistics. Based at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, the squadron travels to select air show sites each year.

Air shows and public outreach allow the team to recruit, engage, and inspire the next generation of Airmen. In addition, they showcase the professionalism and excellence of the Air Force.

“I want to spread the word that any minority out there can be a pilot,” Maj. Wolfe explained. “The airplane does not know who’s flying it, it responds to inputs.”

(Charles A Atkeison reports on aerospace and technology. Follow his updates via social media @Military_Flight.)