February 6, 2017 (by SrA Michael Cossaboom) - As preparations begin across the globe for the 2017 air show season, an elite team of Airmen assigned to Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina are hard at work getting ready for their new year debut.
(From left) SSgt. Dominic Dizes, F-16 Viper Demonstration Team dedicated crew chief, Capt. John Waters, F-16 pilot, and SrA. Adam Armstrong, dedicated crew chief, walk out to their aircraft for a 9th AF certification flight at Shaw AFB on January 20th, 2017. [USAF photo by SrA. Michael Cossaboom]
The F-16 Viper Demonstration Team is one of three single aircraft performance teams in the Air Force preparing for the season by training and certifying new maintainers and the new demonstration pilot. Part of the selection process includes four certification flights approved by the 20th Operations Group commander, 20th Fighter Wing commander, 9th Air Force commander, and Air Combat Command commander. The final steps of certification were completed at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, Feb. 1, 2017.
Gen. Hawk Carlisle, Air Combat Command commander, said he was impressed with the team's show, and encouraged them to not only enjoy the experience, but to represent the U.S. Air Force well before the eyes of the world.
The new pilot for the team is Capt. John “Rain” Waters from Peachtree City, Georgia. Waters is a veteran pilot with more than 2,500 hours in a military aircraft and 180 combat missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Inherent Resolve.
Waters is taking over from Maj. Craig “Rocket” Baker, the former F-16 Viper Demonstration Team pilot, who started with the team in 2015 following the shutdown of all single ship demonstration teams in 2012. Demonstration pilots serve two-year tours on their respective teams.
“The certification is important because it gives us the validation that we know what we’re doing and that we have the best Airmen on the team as possible to go out and to represent the Air Force,” Waters said.
According to the Air Force Recruiting Service, 20 years ago 47 percent of children could name someone they knew who served in the military, today only 16 percent of children are able to do that, and the Viper Demonstration Team is hoping to increase that number.
“The most rewarding part of the job is being able to go to the schools and to interact with the public and show them what the Air Force can do,” Hall said. “There is a large part of the population that doesn’t know about the military, and it’s our job to go out there and share our experiences.”
Fulfilling the team’s mission to inspire the future generation of pilots and maintainers by demonstrating the combat capabilities of the F-16 Fighting Falcon, the demonstration team performs approximately 21 air shows a year across the United States and Canada.
The F-16 is the Air Force’s premier multi-role fighter aircraft capable of flying up to twice the speed of sound. Its General Electric F-129 engine can produce up to 27,000 pounds of thrust.
Following the certification process, the demonstration team is scheduled to go to the Heritage Flight Conference at Davis-Monthan AFB
, Arizona, where Waters will be certified to fly alongside World War II and Vietnam era aircraft, known as a heritage flight.
“Knowing that I can be a part of a team that can function at a high level, learn through adversity, and ultimately excel is inspiring and humbling to be a part of,” Waters said.
In 2016, air shows were considered the number one recruiting asset for the Air Force. By having highly dedicated and motivated Airmen on these teams to spread their knowledge the Air Force will be able to stay as the world’s most dominant power in air, space and cyberspace.