Kelly Flinn

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Kelly Flinn
BornDecember 23, 1970 (1970-12-23) (age 51)
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Air Force
Years of service1993–1997
RankUS Air Force O2 shoulderboard rotated.svg First lieutenant
Other workProud to Be: My Life, The Air Force, The Controversy (book)

Kelly Flinn (whose surname was sometimes misspelled as Flynn; born December 23, 1970) is a former B-52 pilot in the United States Air Force (USAF). She was the first female pilot to serve in that capacity.[1]

She was discharged from the U.S. Air Force in 1997 after an adulterous affair with the husband of an enlisted subordinate, for military offenses including disobeying a direct order from her commanding officer to break off the affair, and for twice lying under oath to investigators about having done so.[2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10] The scandal received widespread media attention at the time and was discussed in a U.S. Senate hearing on May 22, 1997.[2] Kelly Flinn worked as a commercial pilot for Trans World Airlines after leaving the Air Force.[citation needed]


Flinn was born in St. Louis, Missouri,[8] the youngest of five children.[3] She decided to become a pilot after attending Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama.[8] She attended the U.S. Air Force Academy, undergraduate pilot training, and follow-on B-52 bomber training, becoming the first female B-52 pilot in the USAF.[1]

Charges, media coverage, and disposition[edit]

On May 20, 1997, following an adulterous affair with a civilian soccer coach at Minot Air Force Base who was married to a female enlisted subordinate in her chain of command, Flinn was charged by the military with conduct unbecoming an officer, disobeying a lawful order (in writing, to stay away from the married man), making a false official statement in which she lied under oath to Air Force investigators, falsely telling them she had ended the affair,[3][4][5][7][8][9][10] and fraternization (for an additional affair that she had with an enlisted man).[11]

Flinn's case, due in part to her high visibility in Air Force recruitment advertisements, drew national attention, eventually creating a media circus. The Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General Ronald Fogleman, testified at a congressional hearing that, "In the end, this is not an issue of adultery. This is an issue about an officer, entrusted to fly nuclear weapons, who lied."[10] The media, however, largely treated the case as though Flinn were being tried by the military for the crime of adultery, and castigated the Air Force for allegedly firing her on moral grounds; a New York Times editorial on the case emphasized the adultery, rather than the actual military charges with which she was charged, and blamed the military's "antiquated adultery rules and their consistency in administering them, as well as their management training."[12]

Following the media outcry, Flinn was allowed to resign from the Air Force by Secretary of the Air Force Sheila Widnall with a general discharge instead of facing a court-martial.[2][4][5][6] She later wrote a book recounting her experiences, entitled Proud to Be: My Life, The Air Force, The Controversy (ISBN 0-7567-5753-3; ISBN 0-375-50109-6).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Dejevsky, Mary (May 19, 1997). "Female B-52 pilot quits over charges of adultery". The Independent on Sunday. London, UK.
  2. ^ a b c "End to messy case Kelly Flinn: General discharge for Air Force lieutenant is wise resolution". The Baltimore Sun. May 24, 1997. Retrieved November 20, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c Sciolino, Elaine (May 11, 1997). "From a Love Affair to a Court-Martial". New York Times.
  4. ^ a b c McIntyre, Jamie; Flock, Jeff (May 22, 1997). "Air Force gives pilot a general discharge". CNN.
  5. ^ a b c Mitchell, Brian P. (1998). Women in the military: flirting with disaster. Regnery Publishing. pp. 314–15. ISBN 0-89526-376-9.
  6. ^ a b Brady, Tim (2000). The American aviation experience: a history. SIU Press. p. 404. ISBN 0-8093-2371-0.
  7. ^ a b Sciolino, Elaine (December 14, 1997). "Air Force Chief Has Harsh Words for Pilot Facing Adultery Charges". The New York Times.
  8. ^ a b c d Ruane, Michael E. (February 22, 1997). "Adultery Charge For Female Pilot First Lt. Kelly J. Flinn Is Accused Of Other Offenses. She's The Air Force's Only Woman Flying B-52s". Philadelphia Inquirer. Archived from the original on November 14, 2013.
  9. ^ a b "Travis Pilot a No-Show for Hearing/Captain wants to resign after admitting adultery". San Francisco Chronicle. May 16, 1997.
  10. ^ a b c Kempster, Norman (May 22, 1997). "Lying, Not Adultery, Is Female Pilot's Top Crime, AF Says". Los Angeles Times.
  11. ^ "Wronged ex-wife urges no mercy for B-52 pilot". CNN. May 21, 1997. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  12. ^ "The Discharge of Kelly Flinn". The New York Times. May 23, 1997.