December 3, 2008 (by 2nd Lt. Emily Chilson) - The Viper East demo team comes to the end of a great season, but practices continue as they prepare for next year's demanding schedule beginning in March 2009.
Viper East F-16 demo team patch
Watching the Viper East demo team in action, it is easy to see this production takes a lot of hard work and dedication.
"Until March I'll fly regularly with the fighter squadrons," said Maj. George Clifford, commander and F-16 demo pilot for Viper East. "Demo flying is a completely different mind-set from tactical flying."
Major Clifford has been flying the F-16 for more than eight years however this was his first year to serve as demo pilot for Viper East.
Over the course of the 2008 Air Show season, Viper East participated in 30 air shows. The last event of the season for Viper East was the Blue Angel finale in Pensacola, Fla. known as the "Homecoming Show."
"We have a great team that keeps this aircraft combat mission ready," Major Clifford said. "We also get to showcase the men and women who maintain the aircraft."
"I love working on the F-16," said Technical Sgt. Jared Griffeth, lead crew chief and one of the eight maintainers on Viper East. "Before pilots get to the jet we take care of the hydraulics, the tire checks and all the servicing. Watching it take off and land smoothly, knowing you had a hand in it - it's a good thing."
Another vital member of Viper East is Master Sgt. Bryan Spangler, team chief and the voice of the demo team. When Major Clifford is in the air, Sergeant Spangler is on the ground with microphone in hand, vividly describing the stunts, capabilities and maneuvers of the F-16 to spectators.
While demo flying is about showing off the aircraft, Major Clifford said the highlight is always after the demo flight.
"One or two children always come up after the show and ask how they can do what I do," he said.