Jet Pilot Heather Penney and 9/11…Ten Years Ago Today

Pilot Heather Penney is in the news today about her mission to stop the 9/11 hijackers of United Flight 93 ten years ago today.  Quoting Heather, “I was prepared to die for my country; it’s something everyone else would have done if they were in my shoes.” 

She and her commanding officer were ordered to stop Flight 93 from hitting the intended target – the Nation’s Capitol on September 11, 2001. The remarkable courage of Penny (and her commanding officer So Col. Marc Sasseville) is evidenced by their intention to stop flight 93 without the use of ammunition, missals or rockets – of any kind. They agreed to use their jet aircraft to stop the doomed airliner. Penny was quoted saying, “He planned to strike the plane’s cockpit, I opted for its tail.” What they didn’t know at the time was that sadly the airliner had already crashed in Pennsylvania.

 (Read more of AP writer Martin Griffith’s story in the HUFFPOST POLITICS

 Penny is indeed an American hero. Her intense personal devotion in her service to the United States of America as a Lieutenant with the Air National Guard’s 121st Fighter Squadron is beyond remarkable – She served two tours in Iraq while being a single mother…. Her family is tight knit and exceptionally dedicated to one another.

 Heather will being flying her second year in the Jet Class in the beautiful L-29 Raju Grace, Race #21. She placed second in her jet class last year – not bad for a rookie!  We’ll be posting more photos and videos of this remarkable family beginning next week. In the meantime, if you haven’t already, check out our Reno 2010 interviews Heather Penney and her mom Stephanie Penney.

 Next week at the Reno National Championship Air Races we’ll follow up with Heather and her mom Stephanie and the other fantastic pilot in the family – John Penney, who is also a former Military Pilot and now Pilot of Rare Bear and four time Unlimited Class winner at the Reno Races.

 We look forward to your continued comments about Heather, her family and all the other amazing pilots racing at Reno National Championship Air Races.

 Good Luck and God’s Speed to all~

 Kimberley West, WarBirdBabe

Video Interview with Stephanie Penney – Wife of Unlimited Pilot John Penney & Mother of Jet Pilot Heather Penney


On Saturday – the last big day of racing at Reno this year, I snagged a moment of Mrs. Penney’s time while her Husband John Penney was visiting his favorite fans in Section 3

 Saturday was hot – about 98 degrees.  It was mid day in the direct sun and Stephanie was so sweet to indulge me as I placed her behind the box seats in front of the Section 3 fans.  Her back was to her husband who just happened to be wowing long time fans by signing tee-shirts, caps, bodies, programs, taking photos, shaking hands, or whatever…  it’s Section 3 after all…

John Penney being the accessible pilot for which he’s known, takes time each year to personally meet and greet the loyal race fans of Section 3.  You can see some love for the fans in the background of this video interview.

 For years I have been watching Stephanie & John Penney walk hand in hand from the pits to the tarmac line where the Rare Bear sits waiting to be flown in Sunday’s final big race.  (The only time media is allowed to be close to all the aircraft at race start.)

 Even though the gregarious Pilot John Penney shakes hands with all other pilots, RARA officials, Pace Pilot Steve Hinton Sr., the friends, crew and some long-time photographers with whom he’s made friends; Stephanie is always the last person to touch her husband before he enters the cockpit of the Rare Bear

 I so admire passion when I see it in others.  Observing only a small sliver of time, I’ve witnessed the mother load of passion in the Penney family. I’ve seen a quiet ritual between them for many years.  

With a small kiss and a few spoken words, they share a confirmation of knowing the inherent risks and potential dangers in the next flight.  And in so knowing, choose to embrace the shared passion of flying with a meaningful moment of understanding, support and affirmation of what is most important: each other

 So there is my inspiration for wanting to talk with Stephanie Penney.  Now that she has two members of her family flying, I thought it would be interesting to learn how she copes with the stress, if any, and see if there really are rituals that keep the family strong. 

 Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us Stephanie!

 Good Luck and God’s Speed to the Flying Penney’s!