중앙데일리

Female eagle gets her wings

Korean air force puts a woman in leadership role

Mar 05,2007
Captain Park Ji-yeon giving a thumbs from her F-5E plane.
On Feb 22nd Captain Park Ji-yeon, 28, of the 8th Air Division of fighter planes, became the first female flight leader in the Korean air force.
In her new role, Captain Park will be responsible for herself and four other F-5E combat planes.
Captain Park became the air force’s first female combat pilot five years ago. Those who become flight leaders are considered the creme de la creme of the air force. It is difficult to become a combat pilot, but it is much more difficult to become a flight leader.
It costs 5 billion won ($5.2 million) to train a combat pilot and an F-5E plane costs 15 billion won. When she leads her flight of four planes and pilots, Captain Park will be responsible for 80 billion won worth of national asset.

Captain Park with other pilots after finishing a training flight. [YONHAP]
Captain Park wore a cheerful smile when she met the pilots she will fly with at the air force base in Wonju, Gangwon province. Her group consists of Captains Jang Ji-hun, Kim Geun-tae and Shin Cheon-seon and First Lieutenant Park Chan-young. When Captain Park boarded her fighter plane, she looked sharp and ready.
Captain Park has flown a total of 652 hours, according to her record. Since she entered the Air Force Academy in 1997, she has set four records. She was the first female air force cadet, the first female combat pilot (2002), a member of the first combat pilot couple (she married fighter pilot Captain Jeong Jun-ho in 2004) and, on Oct. 1, 2006 she became the first female to take part in the Armed Forces Day ceremonial flight.
“I feel a sense of great responsibility rather than a sense of happiness at being the first female flight leader,” she said. “I will be a flight leader that the other pilots can rely on and I will try to maximize their ability.”

A flight leader needs excellent judgment, ability and leadership in time of combat. The flight leader is responsible for many difficult tasks such as directing other pilots during takeoff and landing. There are four levels of combat pilots. Beginner pilots, who are required to fly with other pilots on board, squad pilots (with 200 hours or more of flying time) who command two planes including their own, flight leaders and instructor pilots.
To become a flight leader, one needs to go through strict evaluations. A flight leader needs more than 400 hours of flying time and six months as a squad leader. Candidates must also pass tests of leadership in mid air, air-to-air combat, air-to-surface attacks and analytical ability. Captain Park failed her first air-to-air combat test but took it again and passed.


By Kim Min-seok JoongAng Ilbo
[jbiz91@joongang.co.kr]


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