Xavier Magazine

Helicopter Physics: Flying High

Many people forget all about their senior thesis once they’ve graduated from college, but Brittny Barney uses hers every day.

Barney, who graduated from Xavier in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in physics, wrote her thesis on the principles of helicopter flight, which included a detailed look at how difficult it is to fly them. Now U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Barney is a pilot with the 1st Helicopter Squadron, based at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, D.C. The squadron flies government officials, military leaders and dignitaries around Washington and also conducts search-and-rescue missions.

Barney, who was a member of Xavier’s Air Force ROTC, was long interested in flight. She became drawn to helicopters after spending time at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico between her freshman and sophomore years in college.

“I really loved the mission,” she says. “I thought what they did was very noble, basically working as a rescue crew. And I love flying close to the ground.”

Barney’s active duty began in 2012 with pilot training at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma. After that, trainees are selected for either the fighter, helicopter or cargo programs. Barney got Hueys, trained a year at Fort Rucker in Alabama, then returned to Kirtland before settling in at Andrews.

One highlight came in March, when Barney and other women in the squadron did an all-female formation in honor of Women’s History Month. She also spends time training and practicing for emergencies and flying high-ranking military officials and international visitors around Washington.

“I’ve gotten to meet so many people I never thought I’d encounter, just from doing this job,” she says.


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