CAPT Colleen Nevius, USNR (Ret.)

First USN Female Test Pilot

Lieutenant Colleen Nevius talks with an instructor after her graduation as the first female pilot to complete Test Pilot School.

Firstborn of six to Lieutenant William B. & Barbara G. Nevius, at NAS Corpus Christi Naval Air Station in 1955- Dad was a navy weapons flight instructor in T-28’s following his combat tour in Korea. 

Graduated and commissioned in May 1977 from Purdue University as a member of the second group of women Midshipmen accepted into Navy ROTC.  Selected for pilot training commencing October 1977, flying the T-28, TH-57 and H-1, earning the coveted Wings of Gold in February, 1979.  With LTJG Karen Thornton, assigned as one of two women pilots to the sea-duty component of Helicopter Combat Support Squadron Six (HC-6) at NAS Norfolk, VA, to fly the H-46 Sea Knight’s Vertical Replenishment (VertRep) mission.  Last-minute Navy policy decisions resulted in the reassignment from a scheduled six-month deployment to the Mediterranean aboard USS Kalamazoo (AOR-6), to a shorter, less controversial one month “show the flag” cruise aboard USS Nassau (LHA-4).   Nevius and Thornton were subsequently assigned to 2-month NATO deployments aboard USS Savannah (AOR-4) and USS Milwaukee (AOR-2) flying passengers and cargo.   Battle group escort  duty aboard USS Kalamazoo in August 1982 took them through the Straits of Gibralter for a brief turnaround in the Med- at last. 

In 1983, first woman pilot to graduate from US Naval Test Pilot School.  Assigned to Rotary Wing Aircraft Test Directorate as lead pilot for H-46 and CH-53E helicopters, completing over 50 projects in a two-year assignment in the Attack Assault Branch. 

Assignment as Assistant Officer in Charge, HM-12 Sea Component flying the Vertical Onboard Delivery (VOD) mission, subsequently standing up HC-2 VOD Squad.  Deployed with the CH-53E to NAS Roosevelt Roads in support of carrier training, and to the North Atlantic in support of NATO exercises. 

Resigned from active duty in May 1988, assigned as XO of the ASWOC at NAS Belle Chase in New Orleans.  Officer in Charge of the C-12 detachment at New Orleans, then Blue and Gold Officer working for the Naval Academy.  Retired from Naval service May 2003. 

Married to Bill Readdy, Captain USNR retired, raised three children in Arlington VA, one of whom continues the family flying legacy in the HM community.

Women in Aviation-PAX River Air Museum and Visitor Center