Turkish Air Force appoints first female wing commander

Major Esra Özatay makes history as she goes on to lead the national aerobatics squadron, which also happens to be world's only to fly with formation of eight supersonic jets.

Photo by: AA
Photo by: AA

Major Esra Özatay takes over command of the 134th Squadron of the Turkish Air Force from lieutenant colonel Şenol Çetin at a ceremony on Thursday.

Turkey has appointed its first female air force wing commander, carrying on with the tradition of encouraging women in the profession of combat aviation - a trend started by daughter of modern Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk more than 70 years ago.

Major Esra Özatay took over the command of the 134th Squadron of the Turkish Air Force from lieutenant colonel Şenol Çetin at a ceremony on Thursday.

The 39-year-old will head the air force wing, which represents the national aerobatics team, also known as the Turkish Stars, according to the Daily Sabah.

Turks received the news of her appointment with a lot of excitement.

Özatay, a mother of two, graduated from the Turkish Air Force Academy in late 1990s. She later served in the Jet Base Command in the Konya province where she flew F-5 jet as a fighter pilot.

She joined the 134th squadron in 2014.

Leading Turkey's national aerobatics team is no easy task. The Turkish Stars performs in a formation of eight supersonic jets, the only team in the world to do so.

Turkish Stars flies Canadair's NF-5 jets, acquired from Royal Netherlands Air Force, making it also one of the few national aerobatics teams to use supersonic aircraft.

Major Özatay is also the first Turkish female air demonstration pilot.

Major Özatay with friends from the squadron. Source: Özatay's Facebook page.

Turkey allowed its air force academy to let in women as cadet pilots in 1992. Some of them, like Özatay, were later promoted to the rank of major.

While Turkey is not the only country where women can take up combat aviation as a career, it does holds the credit for producing world's first female combat pilot.

Sabiha Gökçen, who was one of the eight adopted children of Atatürk, made history after getting enrolled in the Military Aviation Academy in Eskisehir in 1936, according to Guinness World Records.

She flew fighter and bomber planes and registered around 8000 flying hours under her name.

One of the airports in Istanbul has been named after her in dedication to her services.