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Exhausted, Flinn says she wants to fly again in military

May 24, 1997

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. (AP) _ After giving up her fight to stay in the Air Force, 1st Lt. Kelly Flinn said she’s not about to give up on flying.

The nation’s first female bomber pilot _ who resigned to avoid a court-martial on charges of adultery, lying and disobeying an order _ says she may ask for a waiver so she can fly for the Air Force Reserve or National Guard.

``After some rest and relaxation, I will begin to review my options, including the possibility of returning to flight status within the Air Force Reserve,″ she said in a prepared statement Friday.

Her family says the 26-year-old pilot is too physically and emotionally exhausted to talk to reporters or consider her future. Her immediate plans are to head with them back to Georgia once her resignation becomes effective in about nine days.

Although she will never again fly the B-52 bombers that made her a star, Flinn’s flying and financial future seems secure. Her lawyer says she has already received offers to fly for commercial airlines. And her celebrity status is attracting talk of book deals and movies.

But her resignation letter to Air Force Secretary Sheila Widnall makes it clear that her dreams have been shattered.

``Madam, the thought of leaving the Air Force, never to set foot upon another base, never to stand at attention as the Colors pass by, never to wear the wings of an Air Force pilot is the cause of my relentless tears,″ she wrote. It is ``a punishment that I will live with the rest of my life.″

Flinn had asked for an honorable discharge. But she accepted a general discharge on Thursday, and will not be able to fly in the Reserve unless the military grants her a waiver.

In the letter, Flinn also apologized to the Air Force.

``More than anything, I wish that you would accept my apology and give me a second chance,″ she wrote. ``This is the hardest decision I have made in my life and it feels like part of me has died.″

Flinn was accused of having an affair with a married civilian, lying about it to investigators and disobeying an order to end it. She was also accused of the more serious crime of ``fraternization″ for a brief affair with an enlisted man.

Had she been convicted of all charges, Flinn faced up to nine years and six months in prison.

Flinn accepted blame for her mistakes but argued in her letter that they were caused by human frailties and naivete. She fell in love with ``a detestable man,″ and will always live with the consequences.

``I truly fell deeply in love with a man who led me down this path of self-destruction and career destruction.″

Flinn’s case attracted national attention, prompting a debate in Congress about morality in the Air Force. Members of Congress criticized the Pentagon, claiming Flinn was being prosecuted because she was a woman. Air Force figures show that 60 men and seven women were prosecuted on adultery charges last year.

Top Air Force officials pointed out that lying, disobedience and fraternization were more serious offenses than adultery. Privately, Air Force brass pointed to other officers serving prison time for similar offenses and said Flinn got off lightly.

White House spokesman Mike McCurry said Friday that President Clinton ``thinks that the Air Force had handled this in the appropriate manner.″

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