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By Jamie Stewart
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Minter Field Museum holds Founders Day Banquet

 

Jamie Stewart | The Shafter Press

A packed house celebrated at the Founders Day event

Minter Field Air Museum held their annual Founders Day Banquet, celebrating the 77th anniversary of the naming of Minter Field after Hugh Minter in 1942.

There was a packed house in attendance to listen to guest speaker Major Rachael Winiecki, the first female F35 Edwards Air Force Base development test pilot. There were several local dignitaries on hand for the event, including Shafter Mayor Gilbert Alvarado, Mayor Pro Tem Cesar Lopez, City Councilmember Cathy Prout, City Manager Scott Hurlbert and Economic Development Director Bob Meadows, as well as local politicians Supervisor David Couch and State Sen. Jean Fuller. The event was emceed by KGET 17 Sunrise anchor Alex Fisher.

Hugh Minter was a first lieutenant and a WWI veteran, and was commander of the 73rd Pursuit Squadron at March Field in Riverside County. Minter was killed at the age of 33 when another plane crashed into him during a practice maneuver in 1932. Ten years after his death, Minter Field was officially named Minter Field.

The guest speaker, Major Rachael Winiecki talked about her journey to attaining the honor of being named the first female test pilot to fly the F35.

Winiecki encouraged those who have a dream to go for that dream, not letting anything stand in your way. "If you are interested in a future in aviation, go with your heart and go with what makes you happy, no matter the obstacles."

Jamie Stewart | The Shafter Press

Major Rachael Winiecki was the guest speaker for the event.

Making test flight history is just the latest of Winiecki's accomplishments. She previously flew A-10 jets with deployments in Southwest Asia, Eastern Europe and the Pacific. More recently, she graduated from the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base and test-piloted F-16 aircrafts. "I may be the first female developmental test pilot (in the F-35), but pilots are just one small part of the test enterprise," she said, adding that her California squadron also has female test directors, engineers and maintenance workers.

Winiecki flew her first test flight in the Air Force's most advanced fighter jet on Dec. 14. Winiecki said that having the ability to bring the A-10 mission sets to the 461st Flight Test Squadron, such as close air support, combat search and rescue, and forward air controller, is important so the focus is not just on the air-to-air capabilities of the F-35 but also the air-to-ground capabilities.

Ronald Pierce of the Minter Field Air Museum said that Major Winiecki is a pioneer in test flight history. "We are so fortunate to have Major Winiecki as our speaker, and we thank the community for the great support."

 

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