Florida Tech aviation grad to fly aboard Navy A-18G Growler during Space Coast Air Show

·5 min read

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U.S. Navy Lt. Kelsey "Dip" Daucher's aviation career took flight as a student and instructor at the Florida Institute of Technology, where she also played goalkeeper on the women's soccer team.

Today, the 2011 Florida Tech graduate serves as an electronic warfare officer with the U.S. Navy EA-18G Growler Legacy Team.

And she has returned to Brevard County to fly aboard a Growler during this weekend's Space Coast International Air Show in Titusville.

"I feel like it's come full-circle. When we were coming in on approach. I could hear all the foxtrot-tango airplanes flying around — and I was like, 'Oh, I have flight time in that plane. I have flight time in that plane,' " Daucher said.

"So it's really cool coming back to where I did most of my flight training," she said.

U.S. Navy EA-18G Growler Legacy Team is in town for the the Space Coast International Air Show Friday and Saturday a the Space Coast Regional Airport. One member of the team flying is Lt. Kelly Daucher, a 2011 Florida Tech graduate, who is an electronic warfare officer
U.S. Navy EA-18G Growler Legacy Team is in town for the the Space Coast International Air Show Friday and Saturday a the Space Coast Regional Airport. One member of the team flying is Lt. Kelly Daucher, a 2011 Florida Tech graduate, who is an electronic warfare officer

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Gates open at 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday for the Space Coast International Air Show at Space Coast Regional Airport in Titusville. Flight performances will start at 11:30 a.m. and end about 3 p.m.

Tickets must be purchased in advance at spacecoastairshow.com or by calling 321-328-8686. Chuck Aaron's aerobatic helicopter performance will no longer take place.

A quick list of tips for spectators:

  • Attendees can bring up to 1 liter of water in a sealed bottle, but no other outside beverages or food are allowed.

  • General admission and Lawn Box BYOC (bring your own chair) spectators can bring chairs and personal-size umbrellas for shade.

  • Ear protection also is recommended, but not required — especially for children under age 5.

  • Pets, smoking, vaping, personal tents, awnings, beach umbrellas and firearms are prohibited.

L3Harris Technologies announced in 2020 it won a $496 million contract for jamming systems that will be flown on the U.S. Navy's EA-18G Growler.
L3Harris Technologies announced in 2020 it won a $496 million contract for jamming systems that will be flown on the U.S. Navy's EA-18G Growler.

The Navy's unique Growler is an electronic warfare aircraft that debuted in 2006.

"The EA-18G Growler is the most advanced airborne electronic attack (AEA) platform and is the only one in production today," according to a Boeing fact sheet.

"A variant of the combat-proven F/A-18F Super Hornet, the Growler provides tactical jamming and electronic protection to U.S. military forces and allies around the world," the fact sheet said.

On the Space Coast, the EA-18G Growler has deep ties with L3Harris Technologies — which ranks as Brevard County's third-largest employer, trailing only Brevard Public Schools and Health First.

Back in 2014, then-Harris Corp. and Boeing jointly held a Palm Bay rally to lobby Congress for additional federal funding for the EA-18G Growler. About 500 people attended. At that time, officials estimated the Growler project employed 2,200 workers in Florida, including 150 Harris employees in Brevard.

In December 2020, L3Harris Technologies announced it secured a five-year, $496 million Navy contract to deliver prototype radar-jamming pods for the undersides of EA-18G Growlers.

U.S. Navy EA-18G Growler Legacy Team is in town for the the Space Coast International Air Show Friday and Saturday a the Space Coast Regional Airport. One member of the team flying is Lt. Kelly Daucher, a 2011 Florida Tech graduate, who is an electronic warfare officer
U.S. Navy EA-18G Growler Legacy Team is in town for the the Space Coast International Air Show Friday and Saturday a the Space Coast Regional Airport. One member of the team flying is Lt. Kelly Daucher, a 2011 Florida Tech graduate, who is an electronic warfare officer

Last week, Air Force Magazine reported that E/A-18 Growlers are conducting NATO "enhanced air policing in Eastern Europe near Ukraine to show Russia that the U.S. stands ready with electronic warfare capabilities."

"In response to Russia’s invasion of #Ukraine, NATO has up to 30 aircraft on patrol at any moment," NATO officials tweeted on May 10 alongside a chart listing participating Allied aircraft, including the Growler.

"To deter any potential aggression against Allies, #NATO is deploying an unprecedented mix of fighter jets, reconnaissance aircraft and support planes," the tweet said.

The tweet featured a map depicting reconnaissance flight paths across NATO's eastern flank, including flights over Estonia-Latvia-Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia-Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria.

The Growler Legacy Team embarked on a six-hour cross-country journey Thursday from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island near Oak Harbor, Washington, to Titusville. The trek included refueling stops in Grand Junction, Colorado, and Little Rock, Arkansas.

"At the air show, we'll do a lot of low, fast passes. You'll see some breaks out of us. And then we will join up with the (F4U Corsair), the legacy bird, and we will do some passes," Daucher said.

After growing up near Syracuse, New York, Daucher earned a Florida Tech bachelor's degree in aviation management with flight in 2011. Then she worked for the university as a flight instructor for the next year and a half while waiting for a Navy pilot slot to open.

She joined the Growler demo team a little more than a year ago.

"Having retired as a naval officer working in the aviation field, I can attest to the rigorous and challenging Navy flight training that Kelsey must have experienced," said John Deaton, interim dean and professor at Florida Tech's College of Aeronautics, where Daucher earned her degree.

"To be a designated naval officer as Kelsey is represents quite an accomplishment, and we at Florida Tech are proud and honored to have played a part in preparing her for these amazing achievements. The Navy has one of the toughest flight programs in the military, in my opinion," Deaton said.

U.S. Navy EA-18G Growler Legacy Team is in town for the the Space Coast International Air Show Friday and Saturday a the Space Coast Regional Airport. One member of the team flying is Lt. Kelly Daucher, a 2011 Florida Tech graduate, who is an electronic warfare officer
U.S. Navy EA-18G Growler Legacy Team is in town for the the Space Coast International Air Show Friday and Saturday a the Space Coast Regional Airport. One member of the team flying is Lt. Kelly Daucher, a 2011 Florida Tech graduate, who is an electronic warfare officer

Rick Neale is the South Brevard Watchdog Reporter at FLORIDA TODAY (for more of his stories, click here.) Contact Neale at 321-242-3638 or rneale@floridatoday.com. Twitter: @RickNeale1

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This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Florida Tech grad flies on Navy A-18G Growler at Space Coast Air Show