FACT CHECK: Did The First Female F-35 Pilot Crash The Plane On Her First Flight?

Christine Sellers | Fact Check Reporter

A post shared on Facebook claims the world’s first female F-35 pilot crashed one of the fighter jets on her first flight.

Verdict: Misleading

While the woman in the photo is the U.S. Air Force’s first female F-35 pilot, there are no credible news reports to suggest she crashed the plane on its first flight.

Fact Check:

The U.S. Air Force and other world air fleets grounded most F-35 fighter jets due to a technical issue with ejection seats that was first discovered in April, according to the Air Force Times. Approximately five “category 1” flaws have been discovered in the most recent versions of the aircraft, the EurAsian Times reported.

The Facebook image features two screen grabs of purported articles about the first female F-35 pilot. The first is a 2019 article from the website We Are The Mighty with a headline that reads, “The first female F-35 pilot proves flying is a gender equalizer.” The second shows a 2022 post from the online blog Avia.pro titled, “The world’s first female F-35 fighter pilot crashed a plane on its first flight.” Both posts feature images of the same woman in a pilot jumpsuit.

While the woman in the photos is the first female F-35 pilot, Lt. Col. Christine Mau, the claim that she crashed the plane is baseless. Mau began her F-35 training in 2015 and flew successfully, according to an Air Force press release. “Lt. Col. Christine Mau, the 33rd Fighter Wing Operations Group deputy commander, completed her first training flight in the single-seat fifth-generation fighter following 14 virtual training missions in the full mission simulator at the F-35 Academic Training Center,” reads part of the release. It mentions no crash.

The Avia.pro article appears to reference a crash involving an F-35 jet that occurred earlier this year on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson, injuring seven, according to CNN. Mau was not identified as the pilot.

“I was the first woman to fly the F-35 in 2015,” said Mau in a message to Check Your Fact. “I flew only the F-35A in the US Air Force. This accident occurred in January 2022 and was a US Navy F-35C. Since I retired from the Air Force in 2017 and have not flown the F-35 since, nor was I ever in the Navy nor have I ever landed on a carrier, this is very clearly not me. The pilot in question was not even a woman.”

A spokesperson for the U.S. Navy likewise told Check Your Fact the viral Facebook claim was “misinformation” in an email. (RELATED: FACT CHECK: Does This Photo Show Fighter Jets Escorting An Aircraft Carrying Military Equipment For Ukraine?)

Check Your Fact has reached out to the U.S. Air Force for comment and will update this piece accordingly if one is received.

Christine Sellers

Fact Check Reporter