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nother entry was made in the
Air force’s history books on 8
december 2008, when the first
all-female air crew took to the
Captain of the historic flight was
36 Squadron Commanding Officer, Wing Commander
(WGCDR) Linda Corbould, together with Flight
Lieutenant (FLTLT) Samantha Webster as co-pilot.
Warrant Officer Katrina Salvesen, and Sergeants
Paula Ivanovic and Julie Snell were the crew’s
The 30-minute flight was from RAAF Base
Amberley, high level to Ballina, where the flight
then descended to proceed up the coast to the
Gold Coast before returning to Amberley.
“Being a member of the RAAF’s first female
flight crew was a truly wonderful feeling,” FLTLT
“On take-off, once all the checks were
completed, the Captain, WGCDR Linda Corbould,
simply said ‘well, we did it!’ and then it was back
FLTLT Webster said the flight will be a
highlight of her career, not only because it was the
first all-female crewed flight, but also because of
another professional milestone.
“I felt extremely proud to be part of WGCDR
Corbould’s final flight as CO, on the second
anniversary of her taking delivery of the first RAAF
C17,” FLTLT Webster said. “Other than that though,
it was business as usual.”
When queried about the pink 36 Squadron
caps, it was revealed that they were something the
girls in the Squadron had made up when WGCDR
Corbould became Commanding Officer in 2006.
“WGCDR Corbould was the first female CO of an
operational Air Force flying Squadron. It seemed perfect
to wear them for the flight,” FLTLT Webster said.
At the time of the flight, the Minister for
Defence Science and Personnel, the Hon Warren
Snowdon MP commented “I’m sure today’s first
all-female crew will not be the RAAF’s last”.
Women comprise 50 per cent of the Australian
population and 46 per cent of the Australian
workforce, while 13 per cent of the permanent ADF
workforce is female.
Currently only two per cent of the Air Force’s
pilots are female. There are 14 female pilots, from
654 pilots, flying a number of aircraft including, the
C-17A Globemaster III, C-130J Hercules, Caribou, AP-
3C Orion and the Challenger 604. The ratio of female
Loadmasters is even smaller, at only one per cent.
From the 94 Loadmasters working on the
C-130J Hercules and the C-17A Globemaster,
only 4 are female. Statistics like these came as a
surprise to FLTLT Webster said, but highlighted the
significance of the flight.
“It was a little surprising to learn that women
had been flying in the Air Force for more than 20
years before we could crew an entire aircraft with
all females,” FLTLT Webster said.
Recently, the Chief of Defence Force, Air Chief
Marshal Angus Houston reported that the ADF
Reference Group on Women had been established.
The group comprises senior women with a track
record of success in male-dominated industries
and professions, or who have been responsible
for innovative strategies aimed at increasing the
participation rates of women in their workplaces.
Earlier this year, Commandant Australian
Defence Force Academy (ADFA) Air Commodore
Margaret Staib, AM CSC addressed the United
Services Institute of the Australian Capital Territory
(USI of the ACT) on increasing the participation
rates of women in the Royal Australian Air Force.
AIRCDRE Staib said the Air Force currently has
an 18 per cent officer and 16 per cent airmen female
participation rate, which is higher than the average
for the ADF. Despite these figures, the participation
rates of females in the Air Force during the past
decade remains relatively unchanged, despite many
of the employment restrictions being progressively
lifted in the past 20 years.
“Female aircrew numbers in the military are
slowly increasing, which we love to see, but there is
definitely room for many more,” FLTLT Webster said.
“This flight will definitely be a career highlight for
me as we become part of Australia’s aviation history.”
Whilst the ADF is striving to improve the
participation rates of women, historic events like
the first all-female crew to fly an Air Force aircraft
provides ample motivation for young women who
are seeking a different and exciting career.
“The late Nancy Bird-Walton was Australia’s
first paid female pilot in 1935 and the ladies of the
Women’s Auxiliary Air Force from 1939 paved the
way for women in both aviation and the military in
Australia,” FLTLT Webster said.
“And with WGCDR Corbould appointed as
Commanding Officer of 36Sqn in 2006, I know the
future role of females in our Aussie military is
looking extremely bright.”
The four female crew and four of the
female passengers on completion of their
milestone flight and walk across the
tarmac, satisfied with the results.
Photo: CPL Melina Mancuso
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