First Filipina F-16 Fighter Pilot of the Elite U.S. Air Force

Thirty-three-year-old Capt. Monessa Catuncan, a former resident in Pasay City and Olongapo City in the Philippines was recently recognized by the Asian Journal for her phenomenal performance of flying United States’ F-16 Fighter Plane. The said plane was described to be a “state-of-the-art” aircraft by Manila Wire.

Capt. Catuncan was the first Filipina to earn the privilege and honor to fly the said fighter plane commonly called “Viper”. The Viper was not just an ordinary plane as it has been used in many air-combats and has been one of US’ superb planes that fought during wars.

The 61st Fighter Squadron “Top Dogs” will graduate 13 students Saturday from class 07-ABC. They are from left: 1st Lts. Scott Butler, Chris Wells, Mark Hickie, Capt. Mike Anderson, 1st Lts. Charlie Scharmann, Ben Walker, Capt. Monessa Catuncan (front), Ryan Thulin and Beau Provost, 2nd Lt. Jeremy Doohen, 1st Lts. Adam Hafez, Jason Wall and Dustin McCauley.

It has been considered as a high-performance weapon for the US and allied nations for it was able to transcend other known aircraft. Its weapons can even still be precisely used even under bad weather conditions.

The Viper was carrying combat missions in Iraq as a representative from the United States Air Force (USAF). The fact that the plane was too complicated meant that only excellent and equipped pilots are allowed to handle it;

Before getting where she is now, Capt. Catuncan also dreamed and made her way to success just like anybody else. While still in her second year in at Mesquite High School, Texas, Catuncan was inspired to become an astronaut by the movie – Armageddon. At that very moment, her father, Ramon Catuncan explained to her how much hard work and perseverance she has to exert before realizing her young ambition.

An F-16 Fighting Falcon pulls away from a KC-135 Stratotanker after aerial refueling, October 7, 2017. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Hampton Stramler)

Amazingly, young Monessa was not disheartened. Instead, she did well with her studies and graduated Valedictorian in her High School in 2000. Even before she graduated, Monessa already captured the attention of the Coast Guard and was invited to Connecticut and be a helicopter pilot in 1999. She grabbed the opportunity and went to Connecticut.

However, after two weeks, she realized she was not contented with a flying helicopter. Instead, she wanted to fly a real plane.

Taking her next step, Monessa enrolled herself in US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs and studied aeronautical engineering. She took the Undergraduate Pilot Training, excelled, and eventually graduated. Determined to reach her ambition, Monessa topped as a student-pilot in her class.

Monessa’s flying career started to bloom then. She was offered to fly either a fighter or a bomber aircraft. Monessa did not just settle there. She went to Moody Air Force, Laughlin Air Force Base and Sheppard Air Force Base where she learned all the theories and developed her skills as a pilot.

Although learning all the techniques of controlling a fighter plane required a really tough training, Monessa still conquered the stressful situations she had been through.

Reaping her hard work’s fruits, Monessa finally got what she wanted – to fly F-16 Falcon, among the numerous aircrafts offered to her. She went to Luke Air Force Base in  Arizona to practice flying the F-16 or Viper, as commonly known, and of course, graduated with flying colors. What makes her more amazing was that she was the only woman in her group and the only Filipino to pass the course.

As a kickoff of her ‘real’ pilot career in 2014, Monessa was sent to Iraq with the 34th Fighter Squadron as a USAF 2nd Lieutenant. Just this year, she was promoted as a Captain and was assigned in Utah’s Hill Air Force Base.

After all Capt. Catuncan’s hard work and perseverance, she finally earned not only the F-16 Falcon but also the honor of serving her countrymen. She also has brought honor to the Filipino race and flag as a Filipina who made it through a tough way, and an inspiration to every person who has a big dream…

The US Air Force is an elite organization, to handle and piloting an F-16 fighter plane is a prized possession. Monessa, through her perseverance and hard work, has earned not only to fly the F-16 but also the pride and honor of defending the United States and its allies as well as making the Filipinos proud.

Top Gun Pilot Capt. Monessa Catuncan of the U.S. Airforce inside an F-16  / Source via Facebook

As the first Filipina descent to fly the F-16, Capt. Catuncan “also carries the Philippine flag in her heart and the pride of the country it represents and the people in it.”