Sharon Preszler

Keynote Speaker, Transition Coach,
Fighter Pilot


My Story

I was hand-picked as one member of the initial cadre of women fighter pilots in the United States Air Force. I was the first woman to fly the F-16 (a single-seat, single-engine fighter) and the first woman to fly combat missions and instruct in the F-16. I have over 1300 hours in the F-16, including over 50 combat hours in Iraq and one ejection due to electrical failure. In my 20+ years of service in the US Air Force I was also a navigator, piloted a Lear Jet, and spent time in North American Aerospace Defense Command, writing our homeland defense plans after the terrorist attacks on 9/11 – plans that are still in use today. After retiring from the Air Force, I went to work for Southwest Airlines, where I flew over 9,000 hours in a Boeing-737. I recently retired as a Captain from Southwest Airlines.

The years spent in the Air Force, especially my first years in the F-16, taught me what it takes to transform an organization and be personally successful, even in unwelcoming environments. It taught me how to be composed, decisive and effective in a crisis. All those years of flying taught me how to be a compelling leader, to plan for success and to prioritize my efforts to allow time to do what is important to me. Speaking and sharing my lessons and insights, empowering others and giving them the tools to overcome challenges and achieve success – no matter how they define success – is important to me. By sharing my experiences, I have inspired others to pursue their dreams. And by sharing my “lessons learned”, I can help others be successful.

It is my experiences as the first woman in the F-16 and the challenges I overcame to become a successful and respected fighter pilot that are at the heart of my inspirational speeches.


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