Under Their Wings: Woman Follows In Path Of Pilot Family

By Claire Kowalick Times Record News, Wichita Falls, Texas.

WICHITA FALLS, Texas

While learning the family business, Sheppard Air Force Base instructor Major Lindsey Giggy is lucky enough to have her mother and father take her under their wings. The wings of a supersonic jet, that is.

Giggy comes from a long line of pilots and members of the military.

Her grandfather on mother's side, mother Connie Engel and father Richard Engel were all Air Force pilots.

She has three cousins in the Air Force, an uncle in the Army and two sisters who have their pilot's licenses. Her younger sister also married a pilot.

Giggy's husband, Patrick, was also an Air Force pilot, and currently flies for the Air National Guard. His father was also a pilot, and his brother currently flies the Eagle in New Orleans.

Giggy's father Richard Engel flew an A-1 during the Vietnam War, was a test pilot and retired as a two-star general at Fort McNair in Washington D.C., where he was the commandant of the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.

Her mother Connie Engel was an active duty nurse who became a pilot, after some convincing from her then soon-to-be husband.

Connie Engel borrowed Richard Engel's G-suit when she went on a familiarization ride.

They hit it off and got married. Then, when pilot training opened up for women, Richard Engel convinced Connie Engel to give it a shot.

She graduated flight training on Sept. 2, 1977 at Williams AFB in Arizona as one of the first 10 women allowed into the program.

Capt. Connie Engel was the class leader and is often credited as the first woman to fly solo for the Air Force.

Back then for the first female pilots, there wasn't a protocol for flying while pregnant.

Now, in heavier aircraft, a woman can fly during her second trimester, but is grounded for her first and third trimesters.

However a pregnant woman cannot fly an ejection-seat aircraft at all during her pregnancy.

"Although my mom, as the first, didn't know any of that. I definitely was the first supersonic baby. She was up there in the T-38, flying supersonic, pulling G's with me," said Giggy.

Giggy said her mother loved to fly the T-38 and later joined the Reserves, retiring as a lieutenant colonel.

Since retirement, Conni Engel continues to fly Gulfstreams on a contract basis.

Giggy said she grew up as a "military brat." She was born in Virginia while her parents attended professional military education there.

She spent about 12 years, during two different tours, with her family at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

Growing up at Edwards AFB, Giggy said her family often went to air shows, and she listened to her parents tell flying stories.

"It was just so familiar to me, I was always around it. And I just loved it," said Giggy.

At Edwards, pilots would regularly fly supersonic, breaking the sound barrier, with a boom heard miles around.

"I would sit there in class and hear, pa-poom, pa-poom, and I really miss that," she said.

While everyone thought she would become a pilot, Giggy said she went through a "rebellious" stage and majored in engineering with a full volleyball scholarship at Oral Roberts University, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She was thinking about law school to study patent law but realized she wouldn't get to be in the military.

She attended officer training school and served for a couple years as an air ballistics manager, first flying in the back of E-3s.

One day while stationed at Tyndall AFB, she said an F-15 flew overhead and she thought, "Oh I don't really want to be an ABM, I want to be a pilot."

So, Giggy applied for a waiver to begin training early.

The waiver was granted to leave ABM service early, and Giggy pinned captain the day she began pilot training -- about four years into her service in the Air Force.

"There's a certain freedom to it, I think. That you just kind of leave and all the issues of paperwork and life go to the wayside because you're just thinking about flying at the time," she said.

Giggy's father commissioned her, then-boyfriend Patrick pinned her pilot wings on, and her mother did her oath for Major. On her first flight, Giggy wore her mother's flight suit and a pair of pilot wings that belonged to her grandfather.

Giggy began training her first 100 hours on the T-6 before moving up to the T-38.

She flew a C-17 while stationed in Charleston, South Carolina, for three years and traveled all over the world during the Afghanistan buildup and the Iraqi draw down.

"I literally will take off sometimes, look around and think, 'I can't believe I get paid to do this,' " she said.

She met Major Patrick Giggy at Kadena AB in Japan, where she served as an ABM and he flew F-15s.

Giggy, now an instructor at SAFB, assumed that many pilot students came from pilot families, but she found her situation was unique while speaking with her students.

But, she said, almost all of the female pilots she meets are married to pilots.

"There's something to be said, I think, about being able to come home and talk about your job, you know. And have your spouse understand it, that's just, it's another thing that you can share that's fun," said Giggy.

Giggy loves the international aspect of working with the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program at Sheppard.

While flying the C-17, she visited all the countries of visiting ENJJPT trainees, and she loves to share stories and attempt new languages.

She has taught four classes in the program over the last two years -- teaching nearly 50 pilots-in-training.

"I just tell them to enjoy it. We place a lot of demands on them and they can get really stressed. I just want them to remember this year in a good way, not a bad way. ... It can be one of the most rewarding year's of their life if they can just remember to have fun, and relax, too," said Giggy.

In a year or two, Giggy will be attending Air Command and Staff College for leadership training.

Giggy said she would love to come back and help pilots train on the new T-X jets, which are set to replace the aging T-38s.

While Giggy's father was working at the Pentagon, he told her, "There were so many things that could be done better if people would just ask for a waiver, or ask for it to be done different. They would have granted it. They wouldn't ask."

"And so, he said, 'If something doesn't make sense, just ask.' I'm living my Air Force career on at least two waivers already, so I took that advice," said Giggy.

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