Major Fernanda Kozlowski Görtz is a pioneer in the Brazilian Air Force (FAB). She graduated in 2006 from the first class of women at the Brazilian Air Force Academy (AFA) and is the first woman chief of Operations of the Special Flight Inspection Group (GEIV), a position she holds since January 2021. Maj. Fernanda Görtz talked with Diálogo about her professional career and the challenges of her mission.
Diálogo: What are the main challenges of being the first female GEIV chief of Operations?
FAB Major Fernanda Kozlowski Görtz: I’m responsible for managing and monitoring the operational progress of the squadron’s pilots. Managing people in itself is already a challenge; in my case, it’s a little more difficult, because it’s typically a male environment, but little by little women are gaining space and increasing their participation in the military. We have seen an increasing number of women joining the Armed Forces in recent years, which is very good. Being chief of Operations is the dream of most airmen. I am very happy to be here today, flying with such a specialized air unit as the GEIV. It’s particularly good to work with the pilots, who are very well trained and enjoy what they do. I can only thank the FAB for giving me this opportunity.
Diálogo: You are the only woman to hold the position of chief of Operations of an operational unit in the FAB?
Maj. Fernanda Görtz: Currently, another officer, Major Joyce Conceição de Souza, also from the first class of female pilots of the FAB, has taken on the same role in the First Transport Group (1º/1st GT), based in Rio de Janeiro.
Diálogo: What motivated you to want to become an FAB pilot?
Maj. Fernanda Görtz: My father, who is also a pilot, influenced me. He went to high school at the FAB’s Preparatory School for Air Cadets, located in the city of Barbacena, in Minas Gerais, and then decided to be a commercial pilot and worked for many years with VARIG airline. My sister and I always had a lot of contact with aviation. This made me chose aviation from an early age. But the military career was an opportunity that came up later, it wasn’t something I was thinking about, because until then, there was no such possibility for women to be FAB pilots. When FAB opened [school entry] exams for women, my father immediately notified me and encouraged me, since he had many good memories of the school in Barbacena, so I remember that I was super excited about this possibility of being a military pilot and I ran to sign up.
Diálogo: How was the beginning of your training?
Maj. Fernanda Görtz: When I entered AFA, in 2003, in the first class of female pilots, there were 20 of us. At graduation, in 2006, only 11 graduated as cadets. The AFA training lasts four years and is well known for being a difficult curriculum with many dropouts, which in a way is natural, because aviation and the military require a lot of discipline and dedication from the students, and with the girls it was no different. At the end of the training, two other students and I were nominated for the fighter aviation group, while some of our friends went to the other groups: rotary wing, transport, or patrol.
Diálogo: How did your professional career prepare you to take on the role of GEIV Operations officer?
Fernanda Görtz: I spent four years serving in Campo Grande, Minas Gerais, where I had my first experience as a fighter pilot, already trained, participating in air defense missions and intercepting illicit aircraft that were flying over Brazilian airspace near the borders. After that, I had the privilege of flying the modernized F-5, in one of the FAB’s most traditional units, the 1st Fighter Aviation Group, well known for its participation in World War II alongside the allies in the fight against Nazi fascism. They were difficult years and a lot of work, but they made it so that I was certain that I had made the best choice and that I was in the right career. Since then, I’ve tried to keep myself in aviation and today I feel very fulfilled for being able to contribute to the GEIV’s mission, which is to keep the Brazilian airspace safe.
Diálogo: What advice would you give to other women who want to become FAB pilots?
Maj. Fernanda Görtz: I would tell them to go ahead and not give up on their dreams, because in the Air Force they will have many opportunities for personal and professional growth and they will have a beautiful career ahead of them.