First Woman to Fly Harrier Jet in Combat Joins Team
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First Woman to Fly Harrier Jet in Combat Joins Team

October 14, 2019


I need a backup pilot, and that’s where Jenna comes in. I was the first woman to fly the Harrier in combat. I’m going to do a barrel roll here before we do the approach. These types of maneuvers that we’re doing here are something that a Marine Corps pilot doesn’t do. Performing aerial maneuvers takes its toll on the body, so pilots need to condition themselves to be able to handle it. We have to get warmed up. We have to get refreshed with instruments. We have to get refreshed with how the airplane flies. We have to get our G tolerance back up. G tolerance is the process in which aviators condition their bodies to withstand G forces, the event when blood is pulled away from the brain during high levels of acceleration. If pilots lose their tolerance to G, they can black out in the sky. We’ve got a very short period of time to get our G tolerance back up. That’s why we’ve got to fly today. Truck’s here. All right, let me get the door open. It’s forecast to get warmer, right? No, actually, once the weather starts to clear up, it’s going to temperature drop. [laughing] You’re just full of good news, aren’t you? With a 280-gallon tank, the L-39 can travel 400 miles, and it costs the team $1,500 to fill up. We your only customer today, or you got everybody else trying to fly? No, I’ll have eventually some other customers. The team moves on to fuel the Harrier. Art, go ahead and pull out and we’ll reposition to put gas in the Harrier. The Harrier holds about 650 gallons of fuel, three times the size of the L-39. To fill up, it costs about $3,500. So, you can fill up your truck about 10 times. We turn dollars into jet noise. Just when they least expect it, a leak in the hose bursts, creating a dangerous situation. Hold up…hold up. I got a leak on the hose. What? I got a leak on the hose. Fuel started leaking between the coupling and the hose. The last thing you want is a bunch of fuel around. That’s it. It’s on the other side of the plane, Pete. Pete’s quick thinking finds an old-school solution for the fuel spill… with something you might even find at home. This is kitty litter, or at least aviation version of it, and we use it for oil spills, fuel spills, whatever. We’ll put it on, it’ll soak it up. We’ll give it a few minutes, we’ll broom it around, and then we’ll pick it back up again. I really hope we get this in today. The weather is supposed to clear up. We’ve got a pilot that flew all the way in from Boston. She’s going to be our next superstar. Her name is Jenna Dolan. Hey, good to see you. Art needs someone to take over the reins one day, and Jenna may just be his next pilot. Let’s be ready to go, and in the meantime just keep going over the checklist, going over emergency procedures, get some cockpit time and be ready to go in case we just get the call to go fly. All right. All we have is nitrogen in the nose and fuel. And that’s the only two things we got. The weather you brought from Boston, but, oh well. The forecast is for it to get a little bit better in the afternoon. So well just…all we can do is stand by to stand by. I’m Jenna Dolan, I’m a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps Reserves. I flew Harriers on active duty. I was the first woman to fly the Harrier in combat, and I did two tours to Iraq. I met Art almost nine years ago. She said, “I flew Harriers and I flew them in combat.” So I started asking her a few of the Harrier-specific terms, the vocabulary, and she was passing the test. Everything that I was asking her confirmed absolutely she knew what she was doing. It’s clear that Art is impressed by Jenna and thrilled that she accepts to be his pilot. What it means to have Jenna on this team is huge to not only the air show audience but to little girls who are looking for inspiration. It’s just awesome, and I feel like I’m part of the family. I can come down here and just be really comfortable, and it works out well. While waiting on the weather, Art and Jenna go over their flight plan. We’re going to brief both flights here. I got a card for you for the L-39 and for the Harrier. We’ll brief your flight with the L-39 first. You’re in the front, I’m in the back. I’m pilot in command. We’re going to start, take off, go through your normal checks and I’m going to back you up to make sure you didn’t forget anything and whatnot. Rich, you’ll give us a final check before we go. With a break in the weather, Art and the team jump at their opportunity to get Jenna’s test flight going. However, there’s a slight change in plans on which aircraft to use. We’re going to cancel the Harrier flight for today. The wind is just not right. This airplane can handle crosswind a whole lot better than the Harrier can. We’ll just pick a better game day for the Harrier. That’s….it’s just the way it’s got to be. We’ve got blue sky. We’ve got a little bit of wind blowing the rest of the stuff out. The temperatures are good, the winds are kind of stuttered down the runway here. But it’s blue sky; we’re going to go fly. Art will be instructing Jenna from the back of the L-39 as he tests her on her takeoffs, a few aerobatic maneuvers and landings. He is preparing her for the Harrier, which only has one seat and no override in case of emergency. You may have seen me from the back of the airplane. I felt no urgency to grab the controls, to take it from her. Jenna starts with a few high bank turns to get her body used to pulling G’s. So far, she’s doing well, but she wants to practice a stall in case she loses engine power mid-flight. After the brief warm-up, the test begins. First order of business is to get their G tolerance back up. After a couple of months, it wears off and you don’t have as much G tolerance as you had when you’re current and flying. So we go back out and do warm-up flights where we just do 2G turns into a circle, then we reverse and do 3G turns the other way. The purpose of that is to get our body reacting to the G forces again. Get our neck muscles in the right place, our heart pumping the way it’s supposed to pump and you keep the blood up in your head where it’s supposed to be. I don’t like to not be the one flying because I get fairly airsick when somebody else is flying. All right. A barrel roll happens with an aircraft follows a single turn in a spiral. Jenna didn’t pull up enough on the first barrel roll so she goes into another one. We’ll try another one. Next up for Jenna is to practice her landing. That’s Pat. Pat’s watching us. How nice. I think it was her. Nice. I’m all set. After they finish up the test, Art and Jenna discuss what happened. Awesome, huh? She’s learning. No…she did…she did great, she did great. She critiqued her own landing for the first one. The second one much improved, and the third one much improved after that. We had it all ironed out by the third landing. We were just knocking the rust off on the first two, that’s all. We actually had an ambitious schedule, wanting to get everything done today, and we accomplished most of it. We got Jenna up in the L-39, we did slow flight, we did stalls. We did some basic aerobatics and we got our G tolerance back up. Her first landing had a bit of an angling approach. Nothing serious. She’s a professional. Those are minor mistakes. There’s just a little bit of rust there that quickly was off of it. Her third landing was fine. What we did not accomplish… we were not able to fly the Harrier, and I made the call to cancel that. In the two weeks remaining before our first air show, we have some work left to do. The first is we have to fly the Harrier and make sure that all the systems are working and the airplane is working. We’re going to have the parachutes repacked and then we’ve got to make sure all the paperwork is legal for the Harrier and for the L-39, ready to go. In the next episode of “Badass Pilot,” the team heads to Sun ’n Fun. They still have to complete the FAA inspection. But not without getting past some eager superfans first. You cannot be on this side of the aircraft. You can’t go any further. It’s time for all this hard work to pay off. Subscribe to AARP’s YouTube channel and like and share this video so you don’t miss the next episode. Next week, it’s showtime.

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  1. Jenna is the real deal! She hadn't flown anything in several months and jumped right back into flying like she never left!

  2. Oh I don't know about those barrel rolls. A marine corps pilot took me for a flight that scared my breakfast out of me in 1965.

  3. Art, Jenna is the real deal! I signed my jet over to her for her first combat sortie in a Harrier in 2003! TOS/TOT every-time, no exceptions… Semper Fidelis, Brad Whaley

  4. "practice a stall incase the engine fails mid flight"…. No a stall is the wing's loss of lift due to exceeding a high angle of attack. Completely independent of the engine.

  5. I see people here in the comments knocking her for her comments regarding getting airsick. It is 100% normal for even seasoned pilots to get airsick during aggressive maneuvers when they are not the one in control. And like the Gs, airsickness is also a tolerance and it improves with exposure.

  6. There the prime kinda pilots that Marine maintainers hate. doing stupid shit in the air coming back and saying there jet is broken cause they wanna do fkn barrel rolls.

  7. go ask this woman pilot if she feels very feminist or if she feels mistreated by man, i love this kind of woman intelligent and seeking for what she really want…thats more sexy and charismatic than anything

  8. Not a veteran Sea Harrier Pilot just a man who bought a plane being a bit chavenistic to an ex Marine Harrier Pilot i would say she had more combat experience than him.

  9. Total [email protected]$#s. The RAF have had female pilots flying ops over Afghanistan for years while we were there. Typical spams. Think they are the first for everything! Oh and the fact that it started as a British jet to start with.

  10. Impressive! There is however, a small inaccuracy in the story. The Harrier was not first 'foreign' plane in US inventory. It was the English Electric Canberra, US designation B-57.

  11. Fantastic series, it’s great to see a sea harrier in the air and that L-39 is gorgeous too. Art and Jenna are living the dream!

  12. When the hose coupling leaks like that then shake it back and forth, this is normal procedure. As long as that poppet valve is open the hose can't become detached. Shaking it often help reseat the hose properly. Also, if that does not work you close the poppet right away to stop the pressure from reaching the plane. This should stop the leaking immediately. The coupling leaking is not that uncommon, although it's not generally an everyday thing on newer jets. On the older ones like this, I can imagine these little issues are common. Anyways I really enjoy the video (2F051 2006-2012)

  13. What is the most challenging thing about flying a Harrier? It would be great to have a video to understand how tough it is.

  14. Geez…all the pandering…the first woman to do this or that…blah blah blah…so what!! … so she will be the first woman to crash and die a Harrier and get some guys killed in the process. Women could mess up a mud puddle…they should have never been given the right to vote…think how much better off this country would be if we had never don't that.

  15. I found the tone of the narrator and ol mate Art pretty condescending to be honest. I would say female combat pilots have to be better than their male peers to be accepted as a front line pilot.

  16. I love that Art takes into consideration how important it is for little girls to be inspired by Jenna. Both Art and Jenna are way cool!

  17. Flying a mechanical controlled L-39 and a hydraulic fighter on the same day was a bad idea from the get-go!

  18. Uhhh, stalls and the practice Thereof, have absolutely nothing to do with engine failures. I have been flying and teaching for four decades, also flew F-4Js for the Navy in the early 80's. That's a new one for me! Stalls have to do with airspeed and angle of attack, NOT engine failures. Back to school, Mr. Announcer!!

  19. Ye Olde SovBloc L-39 is becoming well-known in North America… for fatal accidents caused by canopy failures/openings… but other than that, it's a "find bird"… lulz…

  20. My wife says the same thing when I drive, that she will get sick. I’m on to her now, it’s a control thing. ;). Great video and I can see Art is a tough cookie to fly under, which he should be. This is a no nonsense biz with serious costs and impacts. Love the series. Come to our air show in Chino CA plz.

  21. Have you thought of getting some ex-Royal Navy Pilots over to fly along with you – or perhaps take a trip in the 2 seater and so on.

  22. The Harrier not good with side wind?For god's sake,these flew in the South Atlantic in awful weather with British Royal Navy pilots fighting the Argies!

  23. So your "AARP" is based in the UK? Hey, I wanna know if the RAF will let me fly the Hawk T2 around. Go ask them, OK. After all, I get all the AARP adds. I promise I won't scrape the wing or anything. I just want to so some sort of more extreme AOA stalls and see how it recovers. Or how I recover. However you wanna look at it. How about it?

  24. I assume when she says she gets airsick when somebody easy flies… Is kinda like how I get car sick if other's drive, but I have no troubles on rolling hills, tight curves, or a lil side sliding. Or is it not a personal control loss thing?

  25. I see a very eclectic group of professionals here…!! Females, African Americans.. A very inclusive group of flight enthusiast here.. !! Gotta love this…!! Gettin' it Done…!! ✈..👍..😎

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