Mar 17, 2009

Flight Pattern

Lt. Page Felini (Engr ’00) breaks barriers as Navy pilot

TOPICS: Alumni, Alumnae
 

Lt. Page Felini (Engr ‘00) talks about flying the F-18 Super Hornet fighter jet.

When she’s flying on a commercial airline, Lt. Page Felini has no trouble telling whether the pilot served in the Air Force or Navy.

“If it’s a soft landing, it’s an Air Force guy,” Felini says. “If we hit and bounce, it’s a Navy guy.

“When you land on an aircraft carrier, you bounce because you have to be prepared to take off immediately if you don’t hit the wire and don’t stop.”

Felini (Engr ’00) knows all about that because she is a Navy pilot—in fact, the first female pilot in the Navy’s flight demonstration team. She attended U.Va. on an ROTC scholarship and received her commission upon graduation. She has logged 1,600 flight hours in an F-18 Super Hornet fighter jet and has made more than 250 carrier-arrested landings.

“That means I stopped on the boat,” she says with a laugh. “And that starts to wear on your back.


Lt. Page Felini

“Landing on an aircraft carrier is really a controlled crash. You’re coming in at a speed of around 140 knots [160 mph] and you’re stopping in less than 1,000 feet. It’s your own personal roller-coaster ride.”

Felini, 31, grew up in Cincinnati and now is a flight instructor at the Oceana Naval Base in Virginia Beach. She did two tours of duty in Iraq, where she flew 15 combat missions.

“Fortunately, it was a quiet time of the year,” she says of both her tours. “We did a lot of reconnaissance and a lot of sea patrolling in the Persian Gulf. On many occasions, we were called on to be the ‘eyes in the sky’ and talk ground troops on to targets.”

Felini considers herself lucky. She never took on fire, nor did she have to fire a missile or drop any ordnance.

As a member of the Navy’s demonstration team, she takes part in air shows across the country and around the world, including the Paris Air Show in 2007. “It’s a 17-minute thrill ride,” she says. Her brother, Lt. Cmdr. Paul Felini, a Naval Academy graduate, also is a Navy pilot, and the two have appeared together at air shows.

Page Felini has broken the sound barrier, but flying faster than 767 mph is not the big deal it was when Chuck Yeager exceeded Mach 1 in 1947. “When you’re in the airplane, you don’t even realize it,” Felini says. “But it does create a cone around the aircraft, and it’s amazing when you see pictures of it.”

Felini realized early on that the University was the place for her.

“U.Va had everything I wanted and was everything I envisioned a university to be,” she said. “I knew from a very young age I would never be happy sitting behind a desk. I’ve always said I will stay in the Navy as long as I’m having a good time. And I am absolutely loving what I’m doing.”

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Comments

  • Alex Rucker on March 18, 2009

    Enjoyed this article immensely. As a former Navy Tomcat pilot I've done the stuff Page talks about. She's spot on. " I can't believe they pay me to do this ! " By the way, I'm a Hokie but don't hold it against me.

  • Jim Sencindiver (Col 77) on March 19, 2009

    I flew a very different kind of vehicle (submarine) in the Navy. It really was an adventure. I was a NROTC student as well, majoring in physics. Loved the time I spent in C'ville at the University.

  • MICHAEL N WINKELBAUER Col '63 on March 19, 2009

    Also a Naval ROTC grad , Naval Aviator and a MARINE I truly enjoyed Page's commentary. It brought back great memories. Sometimes that is just what us "old guys" need to make our day.

  • Julie Bittner Ericksen Col '84 on March 27, 2009

    As a mother of a 4th yr NROTC wahoo who just got accepted into flight school, I found your commentary encouraging (if worrisome)! I'm glad to hear you enjoy what you do and hope my son is as fulfilled.

  • Sarah Brooks on April 07, 2009

    Page is my cousin's daughter and our family is so proud of her. This story/interview is being used in a High School College Prep class at Ashland High School in Maine. Hopefully it will help to inspire Seniors to strive for their goals, no matter how high or out of reach they might be. Congratulations on a great story.

  • Judith O'Connor on October 15, 2009

    My husband, Dick, was a Red Ripper and I stumbled onto this site while trying to find info for him. Does someone know how I can contact Paul Felini or have any suggestions for me? Thanks for any help

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