New Zealand offers unique training to Demo team

Refueling Over the Pacific

Capt. Jacob Impellizzeri, 14th Fighter Squadron F-16 pilot (left), and Maj. Richard Smeeding, 13th Fighter Squadron F-16 pilot (right), fly in formation behind a KC-135 Stratotanker over the Pacific Ocean en route to New Zealand for the Warbirds Over Wanaka (WOW) International Airshow 2018, March 28, 2018. U.S. forces are participating in WOW Airshow 2018 to strengthen military-to-military ties with New Zealand partners while enhancing relationships with partners in the Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jarrod Vickers)

Crowd Interactions

Maj. Richard Smeeding, 13th Fighter Squadron F-16 pilot, greets airshow attendees after his demonstration flight at Wanaka, New Zealand, April 1, 2018. Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow is the largest 'Warbird' display in the Southern Hemisphere with four nations participating: United States, New Zealand, Australia and French Armed Forces of New Caledonia. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jarrod Vickers)

As the Smoke Settles

Maj. Richard Smeeding, 13th Fighter Squadron F-16 pilot, performs a demonstration flight at the Warbirds Over Wanaka (WOW) International Airshow 2018 at Wanaka, New Zealand, April 1, 2018. U.S. forces are participating in WOW Airshow 2018 to strengthen military-to-military ties with our New Zealand partners while enhancing relationships with partners in the Indo-Pacific region. Aerial events like WOW Airshow 18 provide the U.S. an opportunity to strengthen its international partnerships and military-to-military relationships with allies and partners throughout the region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jarrod Vickers)

Crowd Interactions

Capt. Jacob Impellizzeri,14th Fighter Squadron F-16 pilot, engages with on-lookers after landing from a training flight at Christchurch International Airport, New Zealand, March 29, 2018. Capt. Impellizzeri spent the week performing upgrade training to qualify him as the new demonstration pilot for the Pacific Air Forces’ F-16 demonstration team. The Pacific Air Forces’ F-16 demonstration team is in New Zealand for the Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow, the largest 'Warbird' display in the Southern Hemisphere with four nations participating: United States, New Zealand, Australia and French Armed Forces of New Caledonia. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jarrod Vickers)

Sharing Wisdom

Scott Brown, the U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand, speaks with the Pacific Air Forces' F-16 demonstration team during his visit at Christchurch International Airport, New Zealand, March 29, 2018. The Ambassador traveled to Wanaka afterward to view their aerial demonstration during the Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow 2018. The airshow is the largest 'Warbird' display in the Southern Hemisphere with four nations participating: United States, New Zealand, Australia and French Armed Forces of New Caledonia (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jarrod Vickers)

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.