Capt. Zoe Kotnik, the first female pilot of United States Air Force, solo display pilot of the F-16 Viper demonstration team, was relieved of command after two weeks this Monday.
“Col. Derek O’Malley, 20th Fighter Wing commander, relieved Capt. Zoe Kotnik from command Feb. 11 due to a loss of confidence in her ability to lead and command the Air Combat Command F-16 Viper demonstration team,” said Col. Allen Herritage, director of public affairs at ACC, in a statement. “The Viper demonstration team is working to minimize impacts on scheduled performances and looks forward to inspiring crowds around the country during the upcoming season as soon as a new commander is selected.”
According to AirForceTimes The 20th, which is located at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina, said in an email to Air Force Times that Kotnik declined to comment. Capt. Alannah Staver, a spokeswoman for the wing, said that Kotnik is no longer performing with the team, but “will continue to serve in a non-supervisory role in the 20th Fighter Wing.” In a statement on Shaw’s Facebook page, O’Malley alluded to “mistakes” on Kotnik’s part, but expressed hope that she will continue to serve in the Air Force.
“We have thousands of airmen across our Air Force serving our country, and not one of them is perfect,” O’Malley said. “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. They’ll be better for the experience, and in turn, we’ll be better as an Air Force.”
“In these types of situations, I never forget that we’re dealing with real human beings, that I care deeply about, and that we are charged to take care of,” O’Malley continued. “This will be a difficult time for Capt. Kotnik, but she’s surrounded by wingmen that will help her every step of the way.”
The Display Team already revealed the person of the “new” pilot for the upcoming season who will be Maj John “Rain” Waters who was the team’s pilot in 2018.