Switzerland’s first female fighter pilot takes to the skies

Fanny Chollet is the first woman to qualify as a fighter pilot in Switzerland, having started her training in 2012. 

This content was published on February 21, 2019 - 08:02

The Flying Officer (First Lieutenant) nicknamed "Shotty" was awarded her licence in 2017 and in 2018 completed courses that qualified her to fly the Swiss Air Force’s flagship F/A-18 Hornet combat jets. She's been part of the fighter pilot team since January 1, 2019. The 28-year-old from canton Vaud in western Switzerland regularly crosses the country at speeds of up to 1,900km/h (1,180mph). 

The law had to be changed in 2004 to allow women to become fighter pilots. Only 0.7% of the army and air force is female. At the beginning of 2018 there were 995 women in the Swiss army: 383 soldiers, 223 non-commissioned officers (NCOs), 95 senior NCOs and 294 officers. As of the beginning of this year there were 136 women in the air force. Chollet is one of only seven female pilots. The other six fly helicopters. 

Lack of female fighters

Part of the reason for the shortage of women in the armed forces is that Switzerland has conscription for men only. 

“Young women have to do a lot more to reach this position than young men as they have to volunteer to go to officer training school," says air force commander Bernhard Müller,

That said, Switzerland's defence minister is a woman. Viola Amherd assumed the mantle at the beginning of 2019 after a major government reshuffle. 

Chollet met journalists at the military airfield in Payerne, canton Vaud. Swiss public television, SRF, was there.

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