Heather Penney is passionate about inspiring young women, through the WASP story, which inspired her. Penney has raced in the Jet Class of the Reno Air Races, and at the age of 24, she flew her 1941 Taylorcraft across the country.

Heather Penney is passionate about inspiring young women, through the WASP story, which inspired her. Penney has raced in the Jet Class of the Reno Air Races, and at the age of 24, she flew her 1941 Taylorcraft across the country.

Penney, a former fighter pilot with the Air National Guard, tapped into a deep courage and sense of service to country when she answered the call on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, to intercept hijacked passenger jet United Airlines Flight 93 that was feared to be set on a collision course with Washington, D.C. Though her ground crew had no time load the armaments on her F-16, she was sent with a clear mission to take down this potential missile at whatever cost—even that of her own life. Flight 93 never made it to Washington. The brave passengers aboard took control of the plane and crashed it into a Pennsylvania field before Penney arrived.

Her call sign is Lucky. But it wasn’t luck that got Penney through two college degrees, a commission as an officer and two tours in Iraq. It was determination and the belief that if you rise above any obstacle set before you, anything is possible. As the only woman in her fighter pilot training class, and again the only woman in her fighter squadron, Penney was able to draw upon the legacy of the WASP to be reminded of her ability to succeed at whatever she put her heart and mind to.

“The WASP are the spiritual grandmothers, so to speak, of pilots like myself,” said Penney, who went on to say, “I’m honored to be a spokesperson for CAF RISE ABOVE: WASP and believe in the importance of this mission. At a time when I was the only female in pilot training and again the only female in my fighter squadron, the history and legacy of the WASP allowed me to stand on their shoulders and serve with pride. Sharing their story will certainly encourage the next generation of female aviators, and inspire all to rise above their own personal challenges and achieve success,”

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