First female Viper Demo commander removed after just two weeks for 'loss of confidence' in her ability to lead: Air Force
The first ever female commander of the U.S. Air Force's Viper Demonstration Team has been removed after just two weeks due to "loss of confidence" in her ability to lead, and her predecessor has been reinstated temporarily.
Just two weeks after assuming command of the F-16 Viper Demo Team, the first woman to lead an Air Force demonstration team, Captain Zoe Kotnik has been reassigned due to “loss of confidence” in her ability to lead the elite air combat detail.
“I removed Capt. Kotnik from her position as the commander of the Viper Demo team yesterday, because I lost confidence in her ability to lead the team,” wrote Col. Derek O’Malley, Commander of the 20th Fighter Wing, on Facebook Tuesday, adding that it was for her own benefit as well as that of her fellow airmen and women. “As good people like Capt. Kotnik make mistakes, I want them to have the opportunity to learn from them without being under public scrutiny, and to continue to be a part of this great service…. This will be a difficult time for Capt. Kotnik, but she’s surrounded by wingmen that will help her every step of the way.”
Though no longer with the team, Kotnik “will continue to serve in a non-supervisory role in the 20th Fighter Wing,” spokeswoman Capt. Alannah Staver told the Air Force Times, which first broke the news.
Kotnik’s appointment as the first female pilot to head the F-16 Viper demonstration team was heralded with much fanfare, and she assumed command on Jan. 29. It was not clear what could have happened in that short a time, and the Air Force would not comment beyond the initial announcement.
The awkwardness of the timing given the upcoming “Captain Marvel” movie starring Brie Larsen as a former fighter pilot also did not escape notice.
“Suffice it to say that in a year when the Air Force is set to make a major media splash with the highly anticipated blockbuster action film ‘Captain Marvel,’ which stars Brie Larson as a superhero that has a fighter pilot past, axing its first female demo team lead is far from convenient,” noted The Drive, a website covering aviation and military news. “It’s not all that uncommon for the Air Force to remove people from command, but it is quite rare that something like this occurs after just a matter of days of taking up the new position.”
Kotnik is a 2011 Air Force Academy graduate who earned her wings in 2013, according to the Air Force Times. She has logged more than a thousand hours flying military aircraft.
“It was exciting to have the first female demo team pilot here at Shaw, but I’m also just as excited about the many other females that are serving with great distinction across our Air Force,” said O’Malley in his post. “I’m proud to serve with them, and I’m inspired by them. Even as I speak, another female pilot from the 20th Fighter Wing is flying combat missions in the Middle East.”