As children there was no telling what she would grow up to be. Amy Redditt was fun-loving and always smiling, and her interests ran the gamut — she was into gymnastics and surfing and wanted to be everything from a pediatrician to the president to a professional pianist. She was the first to drive out of our group of friends, so we’d always pile into her blue Honda Accord, but little did we know she’d one day become the first female U.S. Navy Blue Angels pilot. So it was a true joy to watch her jet land recently at MCAS Miramar — seeing her come into view above the mountains sent chills up my spine.
Although childhood photos illustrate that seeds were being planted along the way, Redditt (now Lieutenant Amy Tomlinson) admits, “I never knew I wanted to be in the military until college.” After graduating from San Dieguito High School in Encinitas, she went on to USC and met a group of friends that were all on Navy ROTC scholarships. “The number one thing that peaked my interest was the people,” she recalls. “They reminded me of my dad’s friends, Navy guys, a fun group.” Tomlinson’s father, Captain Richard “Turtle” Redditt, U.S. Navy Retired, flew the F-8 Crusader during the Vietnam War, and was later a Top Gun instructor flying the F-5 at Miramar in the late 1970s. Both her maternal and paternal grandfathers, as well as an uncle, also served in the U.S. Navy.
She was soon granted an ROTC scholarship, and during her college senior year, Tomlinson selected aviation as her warfare specialty, but explains, “The only drawback was I have really bad eyes. Pilot training was not for me because of my vision. But, the Navy has a position called a Naval Flight Officer — the ‘back-seater’ or ‘navigator’ — so that is what I chose to do. All I wanted to do was be a part of a squadron and fly on and off an aircraft carrier. If being in the back seat was my way to get it done, I was ready to do my very best.”
After flight school in Pensacola, FL, she was assigned to fly the F-14 Tomcat out of Virginia Beach, VA through 2006 (which included two combat cruises in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom). But it was during Tomlinson’s two years in Pensacola that she watched the Blue Angels practice every Tuesday and Wednesday like clockwork. “I would pull over to the side of the road, run outside of the hangar or out in my yard just to watch them. To me they were an example of perfection, always representing the Navy’s best. I knew very little about the F/A-18, but I wanted to. I knew I wanted to fly fighter aircraft, so one day I could apply to the Blue Angels.”
After Iraq, Tomlinson was assigned to be an instructor (just as her father had) in Lemoore, CA, flying the F/A-18 Super Hornet. As soon as she had the required 1,250 flight hours, she applied for the Blue Angels. She was selected in July 2008 and joined the team in September as a navigator and events coordinator. Tomlinson plans all 35 air shows, currently taking place through mid-November (the San Diego show takes place October 2-4 at MCAS Miramar). No detail gets left behind. She explains, “I spend a lot of time working out things like air show safety, FAA regulations, airspace requirements, hotels, cars, crowd safety, high school visits, recruiting activities, and timelines. I plan our schedule for the four days we spend in each city we go to, from when we show up until we leave.”
There is no question that Tomlinson is extremely proud of what she does. In her sharp blue uniform, her smile extends from ear to ear and her positive energy is completely contagious. “The Blue Angels represent every squadron that is out there training hard and fighting for our freedoms. We get to show the American people what their Armed Forces are made of each weekend at air shows across the country. I was so fortunate to grow up in Carlsbad, go to a great high school, have great friends, play sports, learn music. I often hear ‘I could never do what you do’ from people I meet. My answer to that is yes you can! You can do anything if you work hard and stay positive. This message is very important to me and the Blue Angels allow me to carry it from city to city to thousands of children. It allows me to give back a little, and I love it!”
As for what Tomlinson will conquer next? “The next goal I have in life is to become a mother. I have a wonderful husband, also a Navy fighter pilot, and we want to start a family after my time with the Blue Angels.”
There is no doubt in my mind that she will also be the very best mother. MIA STEFANKO