9/11 and Every-day Heroism | Heather “Lucky” Penney | TEDxChelseaPark

9/11 and Every-day Heroism | Heather “Lucky” Penney | TEDxChelseaPark

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On 9/11, 24-year old rookie fighter pilot Heather "Lucky" Penney was sent on a suicide mission. Without any live weapons on board her aircraft, she and her flight lead were scrambled to ram Flight 93 to protect Washington DC only to find that the passengers on Flight 93 has overcome the terrorists and crashed the airliner. Reflecting on her experience, Penney shares her realization that everyone has the potential and capacity for heroism. In fact, there are certain qualities - bravery, service, and belonging - that we can practice on a daily basis to connect with and strengthen our own inner hero. Mindfully practicing these qualities has ability to transform not only ourselves but our communities. Most widely recognized for her service on September 11, Heather “Lucky” Penney is a renowned speaker on topics ranging from personal courage; decision-making under stress; leadership; organizational transformation; inclusivity; high performance teams; national defense issues; and aviation. Heather was part of the first wave of women who went directly into fighters from pilot training. over ten years, Heather was a Director of various Air Force programs for Lockheed Martin. She now is a Senior Resident Fellow for the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies at the Air Force Association, where she researches and advises on defense policy issues related to airpower and the Air Force. She has been a regular lecturer at the Air Force’s Squadron Officer School; is a Director of the Board for the Experimental Aviation Association; and is the Beideman Visiting Scholar at the Oskin Leadership Institute for Weideman University. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at

United States Air Force Pilot, Senior Resident Fellow for the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies at the Air Force Association

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Most widely recognized for her service on September 11, Heather “Lucky” Penney is a renowned speaker on topics ranging from personal courage; decision-making under stress; leadership; organizational transformation; inclusivity; high performance teams; national defense issues; and aviation. She grew up around aviation and warbirds, but women couldn’t be fighter pilots when she went to college; congressional statute excluded women from combat. Pursuing her love of aviation, she stood up the first collegiate team to race in the Air Race Classic at Purdue University, where she earned her B.A. and M.A. She was in graduate school when she learned that Congress had opened combat aviation to women.