The first female pilot to head the American F-16 Viper demonstration team, was relieved of her command on Monday, only two weeks after she was appointed.
“Colonel Derek O’Malley, 20th Fighter Wing commander, relieved Captain Zoe Kotnik from command February 11 due to a loss of confidence in her ability to lead and command the Air Combat Command F-16 Viper demonstration team,” Colonel Allen Herritage, director of public affairs at ACC, said in a statement published by Air Force Times.
“The Viper demonstration team is working to minimize impacts on scheduled performances and looks forward to inspiring crowds around the country during the upcoming season as soon as a new commander is selected.”
Herritage would not say why Kotnik was removed, but on a Facebook page, it appears that “mistakes” by Kotnik were the reason. She is the first pilot relieved from command this soon after assuming it, barely lasting two weeks, according to USAF sources.
“As good people, like Captain 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,” said one of the servicemen, adding that “this will be a difficult time for Captain Kotnik”.
The Viper team posted a tweet last month announcing her selection suggesting Kotnik was a superhero as in the Marvel Studios movie “Captain Marvel,” which depicts a superhero who starts out as a female Air Force fighter pilot. Her appointment was hyped on social media.
In addition to being the first woman to head the Viper team, Kotnik is also the first female single-ship tactical demonstration pilot in the Air Force. These achievements point to a large error that must have been made on her part recently.
The Viper team is a single-ship demonstration team that performs precision aerial maneuvers at air shows and other national events in the US such as the Super Bowl. They also fly in Air Force Heritage Flight formations.
Kotnik’s first show as part of the Viper team’s 2019 schedule was to be at an air show at Naval Air Station Key West in Florida, on March 30 and 31, according to ACC’s website.
Major John “Rain” Waters, who was last season’s Viper demo pilot, has resumed command of the team.