November 23, 2007 (by Asif Shamim) - Captain Ha Jung-mi, 28, who dreamed of being a medical doctor 10 years ago has achieved a piece of South Korean history by becoming the first female airforce pilot to fly a KF-16.
RoKAF F-16D block 52 #01-0526 from the 20th FW seen on final approach at Seosan AB on October 6th, 2004. [Photo by Elmer van Hest]
Ha, a member of the 157th Fighter Squadron, climbed out of the cockpit and stood on the runway at the 20th Fighter Wing base at Seosan AB on Thursday morning after her achievement. Thus overcoming the RoKAFs initial reluctance to allow a woman to pilot an advanced aircraft such as the F-16.
The captain was commissioned back in 2002 as an second lieutenant. She had been piloting an A-37 until last year and her record in this jet was good. Ha had won the top prize in the low-flying division for her skills during the Air Force's Boramae aerial marksmanship competition in 2006.
Changing up to the KF-16 was a challenge. Ha had to adjust to the higher speed of the new jet. While training for dog fighting, she had to learn to deal with nine "Gs" of force pulling against her body in sharp turns. The extreme force can make piloting the aircraft a difficult task for a woman.
"After training for gravity acceleration, my thighs and arms would look like they were bruised because the capillary vessels had been ruptured," Ha said. "They would only get back to normal after two to three days."
opened it doors fully to women in 1997 and graduated the first female pilot back in 2002. The country has 1900 pilots of which 24 of them are women. Historically few countries have commissioned female pilots who fly the F-16.