Woman bomber takes aim at rough justice

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Kelly Flinn, the US air force's first female B52 pilot, has spoken publicly for the first time since she decided to save herself and the US air force further embarrassment by accepting a general discharge from the armed forces.

Interviewed by Time magazine, she said she would probably "throw some outdoor gear in the Jeep, put the top down, get myself a dog and go".

She is still at the air force base at Minot, North Dakota, where procedures for her departure are expected to take up to 10 days.

Ms Flinn said she was fully prepared to be disciplined for her admitted adultery and disobedience, but felt that her case should have been handled outside the military judicial system.

She said she had been hoping for a sanction that could have included a fine, a reprimand, demotion or transfer. "Then," she said, "I could salute smartly, get Marc Zigo [her lover] the hell out of my life and move on."

Instead, she found herself facing up to nine years in prison, in a case that inflamed American opinion and prompted awkward questions about whether men and women in the US armed forces were really treated equally.

Along with giving her side of the story to Time, Ms Flinn had to suffer the indignity of seeing made public facsimile extracts from some of her love letters to Mr Zigo (who was not only married but wanted for wife- battering). The letters, reportedly found and "shared with" the magazine by Mr Zigo's former wife, Gayla, were written in childish handwriting and ended: "I'll love you always, Kelly."

Of her disastrous relationship with Mr Zigo, Ms Flinn joked to Time that the next person she decided to go out with "is going to have to be fingerprinted and have a full background check".

Described by her family as "emotionally and physically exhausted", Ms Flinn told the magazine: "I've lost my innocence, and I've lost my ability to trust people." She said she hoped people in the air force would "think of people as human beings and realise they are subject to human mistakes and human errors. I hope that ... people will reconsider how they should apply punishment".