Rosemary Mariner first female navy fighter pilot, dead at 65 – Navy to honor with a Missing Man Flyover

Rosemary Mariner, a pioneer in Naval aviation and the first woman to fly a tactical jet, died last week after a long battle with ovarian cancer. She was 65.

Rosemary Mariner was the U.S. Navy’s first female jet pilot and the first woman in the military to command an operational air squadron.

She was also one of the first women to “serve aboard a U.S. Navy Warship,”

Chosen in 1973 as one of the first eight women to enter military pilot training, Mariner went on to become the first woman to fly the A-4C and the A-7E Corsair II.

She later served on the Staff of the Joint Chiefs in the Pentagon. After her retirement from the military in 1997, she taught military history at the University of Tennessee and was an advisor to the Department of the Navy as well as PBS and ABC News.

Mariner served in the U.S. Navy from 1973 to 1997. The daughter of an Air Force pilot and a Navy nurse, she graduated from Purdue University with a degree in aeronautics. She joined the Navy and completed her flight training in 1974. After that, she made history by becoming the first woman to fly a tactical jet.

The Navy is set to honor her with an all-female flyover at her funeral, a first. The tribute is referred to as “a Missing Man Flyover.”

Her funeral is slated to be held Saturday, Feb. 2 in Maynardville, Tenn.


The daughter of a Navy nurse and an Air Force pilot who had died in a plane crash when she was 3, Mariner made it her goal to be as qualified as possible to fly in the armed services. She got her private pilot’s license at 17. Then she got her aeronautics degree from Purdue University in 1972 when she was 19.

A year later, as a growing feminist movement took hold amid a push for the Equal Rights Amendment, the Navy lifted its restrictions and opened up its flight program to women — setting Mariner on a path to becoming a pioneer in the military.

She was in the inaugural class of women who earned their Navy wings in 1973. Mariner then became the first woman to fly a tactical fighter jet in 1974, at just 21; in 1982, she was among the first women to serve aboard a U.S. Navy warship; in 1991, during the Gulf War, she became the first woman to command an aviation squadron. Later, she was instrumental in the repeal of combat exclusion restrictions on women.

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