The first female Swiss Air Force test pilot

On June 8, 2024, Capt. Fanny “Shotty” Chollet will graduate from the US Air Force’s Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base (AFB) as Switzerland’s first female test pilot. Chollet, born in Saint Légier La Chiésaz, is a reserve pilot for the Swiss Air Force and future test pilot for the Swiss Department of Procurement.

Chollet is no stranger to breaking barriers, as she is also the Swiss Air Force’s only female fighter pilot. She is incredibly grateful for the opportunity of her studies and the support of her family, friends and peers. “It is a huge opportunity and privilege to be here, as you can imagine because many countries do not have a test pilot school, so you go where you can and where you’re accepted,” Chollet said in a USAF news release.

Since its creation in 1944, the Air Force Test Pilot School has produced an elite list of roughly 3,286 graduates, 89 of which are female. Chollet will be added to the list of alumni that include World War II flying aces, astronauts, generals, famous first flight pilots and many of today’s innovative flight test leaders. The school regularly hosts several international exchange students across two annual classes.

Switzerland’s small team of test pilots

Swiss only female fighter pilot graduates from US Air Force Test Pilot School: she will be the first female Swiss Air Force test pilot
Capt. Fanny Chollet, Swiss Air Force Test Pilot Student, prepares for a flight for Air Force Test Pilot School located at Edwards Air Force Base. After graduating from Air Force Test Pilot School on Jun. 8, 2024, she will be the first female test pilot. Capt. Chollet is also the first female fighter pilot for the Swiss Air Force.

Capt. Chollet’s decision to become a test pilot was based on her love for flying, being in the air and the complexity and variety of different types of aircraft. “When I first decided to become a military pilot, being the first female had nothing to do with it. I didn’t even know when I applied that I was the first female test pilot from Switzerland,” she said. “I learned later in the selection process that I was. It was more of I knew what I wanted to do and what I like, so that is why I pursued it.”

There are over 367 international graduates from 24 countries at the school, including Switzerland, with a focus to enhance allied capabilities and international cooperation. “What is really valuable is we are a small team of test pilots in Switzerland and it’s interesting to have different views on how to test that we get from going to different schools and then we can bring our experience back to the team to make it better,” she said.

Chollet encourages people of all walks of life with an interest and passion for flying to pursue their dreams. She explains that she has been treated the same as her male colleagues in the US and Switzerland and it was not a topic of conversation in the classroom. “I have a lot of young girls who contact me who would want to become a pilot and talking with them, I try to tell them there is no difference, don’t be scared to try,” she said.

Fanny “Shotty” Chollet

Shotty
Capt. Fanny Chollet, Swiss Air Force Test Pilot Student, prepares for a flight for Air Force Test Pilot School located at Edwards Air Force Base. After graduating from Air Force Test Pilot School on Jun. 8, 2024, she will be the first female test pilot.

After a short break from the rigorous 50 week curriculum at Air Force Test Pilot School, Chollet will begin her new role within the Swiss Procurement Agency, tasked with testing and evaluating current and future combat aircraft to ensure they meet the needs of Swiss fighter pilots.

Flying Officer (First Lieutenant) Fanny “Shotty” Chollet is the first woman in the Swiss Air Force to be qualified as a fighter pilot.

“Shotty”started her training in 2012 and was awarded her licence in 2017 and in 2018 completed courses that qualified her to fly the Swiss Air Force’s flagship F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets. She’s been part of the Swiss Air Force fighter pilot community since Jan. 1, 2019. She regularly crosses the country at speeds of up to 1,900km/h (1,180mph).

As reported by SwissInfo.ch, the law had to be changed in 2004 to allow women to become fighter pilots. Only 0.7% of the Army and Air Force is female. At the beginning of 2018 there were 995 women in the Swiss Army: 383 soldiers, 223 non-commissioned officers (NCOs), 95 senior NCOs and 294 officers. As of the beginning of this year there were 136 women in the Air Force. Chollet is one of only seven female pilots. The other six fly helicopters.

Part of the reason for the shortage of women in the armed forces is that Switzerland has conscription for men only.

Swiss only female fighter pilot graduates from US Air Force Test Pilot School: she will be the first female Swiss Air Force test pilot
Capt. Fanny Chollet, Swiss Air Force Test Pilot Student, prepares for a flight for Air Force Test Pilot School located at Edwards Air Force Base.

Photo credit: Mary Kozaitis / U.S. Air Force