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Australian all-female crew makes history with C-27J Spartan flight

All female Australian Spartan crew
Left to right: Flying Officer Lauren Townsend, co-pilot; Flight Lieutenant Thea Margalit, aircraft captain; Corporal Joanna Fletcher, loadmaster; Corporal Antonia Guterres, loadmaster; Corporal Tiana Heap, loadmaster; Flight Lieutenant Emily Renshaw, aircraft captain; and Flight Lieutenant Katherine Mitchell, aircraft captain. Photo: Royal Australian Air Force

A Royal Australian Air Force all-female crew has flown a C-27J Spartan transport aircraft into the history books recently at the air force’s No. 35 Squadron.

The training flight from RAAF Base Amberley on January 24 was the first time No. 35 Squadron had dispatched an all-female crew in the unit’s 80-year history.

The aircraft also carried non-aircrew women from No. 35 Squadron, essential to keeping the unit’s fleet of 10 C-27Js ready to support operations.

The flight provided flying currency for the C-27J aircrew, and ensured readiness to fly tactical airlift support to defense operations wherever it’s needed.

“We were really excited about this opportunity, showcasing not only females in aviation in Air Force, but also the women who work in support of ensuring the success of our tasks every day,” Flight Lieutenant Thea Margalit, the pilot, said.

“Being the first of anything comes with great pride and I am privileged to have flown (the) mission alongside Flight Lieutenant Emily Renshaw.

“Em and I met at the Australian Defence Force Academy in 2014 where we were teammates on the soccer field.

“We went on to complete the pilot’s course together, were posted to No. 35 Squadron together, and today we are flying the plane together.”

The air force has previously flown all-female crew missions with aircraft such as the C-17A Globemaster III, KC-30A multi-role tanker transport, F/A-18F Super Hornet, and the King Air 350.

Australian airwomen are not the only ones with the achievement, as their colleagues in the US have done the same in the past, including a flight with the fairly new KC-46 Pegasus tanker.

No. 35 Squadron – known colloquially as ‘Wallaby Airlines’ – was established in March 1942, and has a record of providing tactical airlift during wartime operations in New Guinea and Vietnam.

Equipped with the C-27J Spartan in 2015, the squadron has recently been heavily involved with delivering critical food supplies to Coober Pedy after the region was cut-off by floodwaters caused by significant rainfall.