Air Force major hopes her pageant wins will inspire more women to become pilots

An Air Force officer with a sideline as a pageant competitor is using her spotlight to promote opportunities for women in aviation.

Maj. Raliene Banks won her third title, Mrs. Regency International, last month in Las Vegas.

Born and raised in Guam, Banks entered the Air Force in 2008 as a pilot and has flown the C-17 Globemaster, RQ-4 Global Hawk, and KC-135 Stratotanker during her career. Now she works at the Pentagon as deputy chief of agile combat employment.

“I didn’t apply for the Air Force until I had already graduated from college, and I had a job lined up already with the Federal Aviation Administration to be an air traffic controller,” Banks told Stars and Stripes by phone on Saturday. “In 2007 was when I was notified I was selected for pilot training, that was probably one of the best days of my life.”

Everything changed for her in 2019 when she was diagnosed with Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder that affects the thyroid. That has grounded her Air Force flying career, at least temporarily.

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