WANAKA, New Zealand -- “We got out of our F-16 Fighting Falcons and the amount of support we received from the Kiwis was awesome,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Jacob Impellizzeri, 14th Fighter Squadron F-16 pilot. “We had a lot of positive interactions with the community; they welcomed us with open arms.”
There are three pilots attached to the Pacific Air Forces' demonstration team - one to fly the aerial demonstration and two as safety observers and wingmen. Impellizzeri is now training to take the reigns as U.S. Air Force Maj. Richard Smeeding approaches tenure as the PACAF demo team pilot.
Most of Capt. Impellizzeri's training is done at Misawa Air Base, Japan, but flying in New Zealand offers a unique training opportunity for the demo pilots.
“It's like no other flying I've done before,” said Impellizzeri. “New Zealand offers the opportunity to complete 100 ft. minimum altitude category three requirements to perform the demo mission. Gaining that tactical training was awesome.”
The demo pilots traveled to New Zealand to strengthen the United States' strong ties and demonstrate interoperability with partner nations.
“I've never met a group of people that were so welcoming,” said Impellizzeri. “It's like we've been operating out of here for 100 years. The Royal New Zealand Air Force is full of professionals, we wouldn't have been able to perform at Warbirds Over Wanaka without them.”
The F-16 and the C-17 Globemaster III demonstration teams were featured in this year's Warbirds Over Wanaka international airshow. This is the third U.S. Air Force appearance since the show's inception in 1988, and the first PACAF F-16 demonstration team appearance.