Keynote Speaker

AAFP Leadership Conference Keynote Speaker 2019 Nicole Malachowski

Col. Nicole Malachowski (USAF, Ret.)

First Woman Thunderbird Pilot, Combat Veteran, Fighter Squadron Commander, White House Fellow and Adviser, and Indomitable Spirit

A 21-year veteran of the United States Air Force, Colonel Nicole Malachowski wanted to fly military jets since the moment she saw them during her first air show at age 5. She achieved that goal—and then some. A leader, combat veteran, first woman pilot on the Thunderbirds Air Demonstration Squadron, instructor, White House Fellow, and inductee into the Women in Aviation International Pioneer Hall of Fame, Nicole's Air Force career exceeded her wildest dreams.

She’s been a member and leader of exceptional teams. She has faced overwhelming challenges and adversity and has come out on top. When Nicole's distinguished military career was cut short by a neurological tick-borne illness that, at its worst, left her unable to walk safely or speak intelligibly, she overcame those challenges as well.

In her Harnessing Headwinds of Change presentation, Nicole holds audiences spellbound—drawing upon her extraordinary career to offer lessons on leadership and overcoming adversity—with breathtaking video from the cockpit of her jet as the Thunderbirds execute precision turns, rolls, and loops at 400 mph and just 300 feet off the ground. In flying, headwinds slow you down. At their worst, they cause you to change your plans and impact the effectiveness of weapons in combat. Headwinds demand that pilots be resilient and resourceful, literally on the fly. Nicole will use this comparison to inspire audiences to think differently about the headwinds of change they face–organizationally and personally.