Booth journalists interview fighter pilot
The sky is the limit for the young journalists at J.C. Booth Middle, and they recently found inspiration from someone very familiar with flying sky high. In March of this year, two members of the Warrior Times teamed up for a feature story on fighter pilot Heather “Lucky” Penney.
For Women’s History Month, the Warrior Times chronicled Penney, a trailblazer in her field. Penney followed in the footsteps of her father to become a fighter pilot, even though it wasn’t always easy.
Growing up, women were not allowed to be combat pilots. As soon as Congress changed that rule in 1993, she knew what she had to do.
“I signed up immediately,” Penney told the Warrior Times. “I wanted to be a fighter pilot like my dad.”
Penney, now the director of US Air Force Air Superiority at Lockheed Martin, served two tours of duty in Iraq. She was also one of two F-16 pilots assigned to fly their unarmed planes in an attempt to ram and take down the hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 before it could reach Washington, D.C. on September 11, 2001. Her squadron leader, Col. Marc Sasseville, would ram the cockpit, and Penney would hit the tail.
“Essentially, I would be a kamikaze pilot,” she said. “I genuinely believed that was going to be the last time I took off. If we did it right, this would be it.”
She would not have to complete her mission, as the passengers onboard fought the hijackers, and the plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.
“The real heroes are the passengers on Flight 93 who were willing to sacrifice themselves,” Penney said. “I was just an accidental witness to history.”
Marlee Rafter and Sophie Thompson took on the story as a two-fold effort, with Sophie interviewing Penney via Zoom and Marlee writing the story.
“We have so many strong, brilliant, and courageous girls here at Booth. I want them to see examples of strong and courageous women,” said Warrior Times advisor Colleen Johnson. “Having one of our students speak with a fighter pilot who is a woman that was part of change in the armed forces and exemplified such courage on 9/11 makes the possibility more realistic. Having the students interview and write the story also shows them what they are capable of.”
To read the Warrior Times article in its entirety, go to boothwarriortimes.com/916/news/heather-lucky-penney-fighter-pilot.