First Lieutenants Jazmín Pérez Cobos and María José Cuevas changed the history of aviation in Ecuador, as they became the first female fighter pilots in the Ecuadorean Air Force (FAE, in Spanish).
After a year of academic training at Manta Air Base on Ecuador’s Pacific coast, 40 hours in a flight simulator, and 60 flight hours in A-29B Super Tucanos fighter aircraft, 1st Lt. Cueva and 1st Lt. Pérez became fighter pilots in December 2019, and are ready for any mission, they told Diálogo. Six male Ecuadorean first lieutenants graduated with them.
The female fighter pilots deployed during the first week of January 2020 with the Falcons Squadron of FAE’s 23rd Fighter Wing to carry out flight interception, smuggling and narcotrafficking control, and patrol operations in border areas.
“We are ready to fly in times of peace and in times of war,” said 1st Lt. Cueva. “Our main mission is to maintain defense in national security operations on the northern border.”
“Academic and physical training, study, and constant work allowed us to break paradigms, and now the Air Force is giving us the opportunity to venture into this field, once dominated by men,” said 1st Lt. Pérez. “Being part of history gives us a great responsibility to keep the door open for more women to join the force,” she added.
“There was no preferential treatment for anyone,” Ecuadorean Air Force First Lieutenant Roberto Pita, one of the eight fighter pilots who recently graduated, told the press. “These women earned their place and showed that they are capable.”
The Falcons Squadron’s surveillance missions go out around the clock to any part of the country, under any weather conditions. More than 300 members of the Ecuadorean Armed Forces provide operational support in shifts. “All with the help of intelligence, so that security operations can be conducted on land, together with other forces,” 1st Lt. Pérez said.
“The Falcons Squadron has 18 A-29B aircraft to face the challenges,” said 1st Lt. Pérez. It also has “pilots that are capable of working under great pressure and responding with accuracy,” said 1st Lt. Cueva.
Both officers said that air operations are not only a challenge for women, but for all fighter pilots, and they urged people who want to become fighter pilots to begin training. “This career demands many sacrifices, regardless whether you are a man or a woman; what makes a difference is your willpower,” concluded 1st Lt. Cueva.