TAMPA, Fla. — MacDill Air Force Base once again rolls out the red carpet for our friends and neighbors through a showcase of extreme aviation capabilities. As the two time "Best Military Air Show" winner, our AirFest planning team has set the bar higher this year in planning the best Tampa Bay AirFest ever.
While they celebrate military aviation, there is one person on base who has overcome challenges to be part of an elite few.
Captain Ilma Calite is from Lithuania. She came to the United States when she was in fifth grade and didn’t know any English. She and her mother learned together. When it was time to go to college, Captain Calite says she wasn’t ready, so she decided to join the Air Force.
Captain Calite started working in the kitchen on “midnight chow” duty eleven years ago. Now, just making the minimum height requirement to be in the Air Force at 5’4’’, she is a pilot. Captain Calite flies the KC-135. Her accomplishment even surprising her at times.
“To actually be able to fly something like this, I still can’t believe it to this day,” said Calite.
Captain Calite is part of an elite group at MacDill Air Force Base. She is just one of five female pilots on base of the 100 who are stationed there.
“Just seeing a giant aircraft like this, it’s just very empowering. I’m like ‘wow.’ This is incredible.”
The KC-135 is a multi-use aircraft. Captain Calite said it can be used to transport dozens of people, can be used in the event of medical emergencies and evacuations, but there is a primary job for this large plane.
“Our primary mission is to fuel other aircraft in midair. So we take off and meet with another fighter, bomber or other aircraft,” said Captain Calite.
She said while she knows she is a member of an elite group, she doesn’t want to only be known as a female pilot, but rather a good aviator.
“Just being able to see it in little girls’ eyes, like they know. Hey, I can be anything they want to. They can be a pilot too, there are no limits!,” said Captain Calite.
The headlining event for this year’s AirFest will be the U.S. Navy Blue Angels are joined this year by the F-22 Demo team and the A-10 Demo Team (flying airshows for the first time in 7 years). Come ready to feel the thunder Tampa Bay while touring an amazing array for aviation assets from all of our amazing military services.
The event is free and runs May 12 and 13.