March 10, 2007 (by SrA Holly MacDonald) - Shaw's Viper East F-16 Demonstration Team started this year's season March 1st with the annual Heritage Flight training conference at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.
The Viper East F-16 Demonstration Team 2007
Thirteen of Shaw's finest spend nine months out of the year traveling around the world, demonstrating tactical capabilities of the F-16 and the professionalism of the Air Force, said Maj. Jason Koltes, team commander and pilot.
The team is comprised of one NCOIC, one assistant NCOIC, two avionics technicians, two crew chiefs, two assistant crew chiefs, one demonstration pilot and four safety officers.
The team performs approximately 30 shows each season for a wide range of audience, said Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Williams, Demo Team avionics technician.
The aerial demonstration is a 15-minute display of tactical maneuvers at a lower altitude for the observers to get an up-close experience, Major Koltes said.
"We want people to hear, see and feel the power of the F-16 during the demonstration," he said.
The pilot performs maneuvers at altitudes as low as 300 feet and at 650 miles per hour. Each maneuver demonstrates unique capabilities of the aircraft and its handling qualities. From the high speed pass to the maximum climb, Major Koltes tries to make each maneuver as precise as possible, he said.
"The demonstration itself is just a small portion of what we do," Major Koltes said. "The majority of the time our work involves engaging with the public and educating them on Air Force missions and involvement in the war on terrorism."
Usually two days out of the week are spent at schools, hospitals and other events where the team has an opportunity to impact the youth, the major said.
The team also performs in allied countries to build international relations, said Staff Sgt. Thomas Wilson, one of the team's crew chiefs.
At Shaw, the team tries to take care of most of the maintenance, training and overall production of the demonstration, Sergeant Wilson said. The team performs maintenance to the aircraft, videotapes each show, makes chalks and trains the new Airmen who rotate in their two-year terms with the demonstration team.
The 79th Aircraft Maintenance Unit and the 79th Fighter Squadron support the team by providing maintenance and aircraft. Each of the operational flying squadrons at Shaw takes a two-year rotation of supporting the team, Major Koltes said.
"We couldn't do our mission without the support of the 79th," he said. "The squadron flies the same amount of sorties as the other squadrons with three less aircraft to support the demo team operation."
Members of the team are proud of their mission, Sergeant Williams said. They truly define the core values of integrity first, excellence in all they do and service before self. Some of the members feel like the demonstration team is a great stepping stone toward career opportunities such as the Thunderbirds, he said.
"I believe each member is exceptional and truly the best on the base at what they do," Major Koltes said. "It really makes my job easy when I'm working with some of the finest Airmen from Shaw."