By Senior Airman Collette Brooks, 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published June 02, 2019
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Rows of local food vendors saturate the asphalt fairgrounds with the scent of freshly-grilled meat. Visitors take turns between filling their bellies with savory and salty cuisine and posing in front of various aircraft static displays, loading their phones with keepsake photos.
Some wince at the deafening "swoosh" sound that fills the sky, but one little boy maintains complete focus. Every twist of the jet soaring through the cotton candy-colored sky leaves a vibrant impression on his heart while a development of love for flying takes over his mind.
Capt. Jacob “Primo” Impellizzeri, the Pacific Air Forces F-16 Fighting Falcon Demonstration Team commander and pilot, attended countless aerial performances in his adolescents, resulting in an unwavering passion for aviation.
Impellizzeri traveled annually from his hometown, Cincinnati, Ohio, to Vandalia, Ohio, to attend the Dayton Air Show with his mother, father, brother and sister.
“Those air shows were the spark that ignited my future,” Impellizzeri explained. “Watching those pilots maneuver those big and powerful jets with such confidence and ease really caught my attention n. To them it probably felt like just another routine airshow performance, but to me it was generating this strong dream of becoming a pilot.”
Not only did Impellizzeri possess the drive to manifest his destiny of being a pilot, but he also had a family legacy backing him.
Impellizzeri’s comes from a long line of service members in his family, both enlisted and officer rankings.
In his youth, he idolized one aviator in particular, former Capt. Ken Impellizzeri, aka “dad” for short.
Impellizzeri’s father was an Air Force Lockheed C-130 Hercules pilot for 10 years. His father would share stories, pictures and model airplanes with a young Impellizzeri, exposing him to the world of aviation. These influences paired with their consistent airshow attendance guided his dream from a distant day dream to a vivid reality starting with school.
In addition to taking the required high school core classes, Impellizzeri began attending flight and ground school to earn his private pilot license.
“I had no ‘off days’ during that time in my life,” Impellizzeri chuckled. “ I was either at school, getting ready for school or sleeping so I could wake up and go back to sleep. Although I was required to take the common classes like Biology or English, adding flight school to my plate never felt like a nuisance because it was something I had always yearned to learn more about. Some might say my free time for fun was limited, but I like to think studying what goes into an airframe was my fun.”
Post-high school graduation, Impellizzeri completed four years of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program at Wright State University in Fairborn, Ohio, earning his private pilot license and a pilot slot with the U.S. Air Force.
Impellizzeri additionally completed a 56-week Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, and a specialized F-16 program at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona.
After his one and a half-year tour at Osan Air Base, South Korea, in 2016, Impellizzeri received orders to Misawa Air Base, Japan.
This new base transition lead Impellizzeri to a "happy accident" discovery resulting in an alteration to his career.
“I had no clue there was a demo team based here,” Impellizzeri explained with his pearly whites starting to peak through for a full face grin. "I was taxing on the runway like I have many times before taking flight and I catch a pilot practicing highly advanced aerial maneuvers. I instantly felt a sense of nostalgia from all those air shows I attended as a child. I knew in that very moment, I had to not only be a fighter pilot, but a demo team pilot as well.”
To qualify for the demo team pilot slot, Impellizzeri completed 20 sorties, an in-person interview with his leadership and a certification ride with the PACAF commander.
Impellizzeri earned his demo pilot position May 5, 2018 and began to instantly impress those around him.
“One of the most proud moment I've had in my 20+ Air Force career was watching Impellizzeri perform his first solo flight,” expressed Master Sgt. Jeff Parker, the PACAF F-16 Demo Team superintendent. “His improvement from those first few flights to today has been a true sight to see. He has progressed in every aspect and I credit that to his dedication and love he has for this team."
While Impellizzeri has grown from a fresh pilot to a seasoned performer, he can also whole heartedly say that this has been a “full circle” moment in his life.
“Today marks my one year anniversary as the PACAF F-16 Demo Team pilot,” Impellizzeri expressed with gratitude flowing from his aura and flooding the room. “I still can’t wrap my mind around the fact that I went from being a five-year-old kid idolizing pilots to being one.”
Impellizzeri duties as the Demo Team pilot includes overseeing a team of three crew chiefs, two avionics specialists, one electrical and engineering specialist, one engines maintainer, safety observer and a superintendent.
"Capt. Impellizzeri’s work ethic is impeccable,” expressed Parker confidently. “He never fails to display professionalism and care, which makes working alongside him a great pleasure. We do a ton of traveling all around the world so having his level of guidance and structure keeps all components of our show running smoothly.”
While Impellizzeri’ s talents are noted by his teammate, he shared what the main inanimate object that makes the whole demo team functional, means to him.
“Flying these powerful jets is an indescribable feeling,” he said as his auburn eyes began to drift into a gaze. “It's like the aircraft is an extension of my body. The bubble canopy on the F-16 gives me a 360-degree point of view of the world. It's a combination of the ultimate view with the feeling of the ultimate freedom.”
Despite Impellizzeri constantly hitting the road for this next air show, one thing he never forgets to pack is the admiration and love for those close to him.
“My friends, family members, teammates and faith is what keeps me going through rough times,” he explained. “The goal of being an exceptional pilots stems from the hard working men and women I’ve had the pleasure of knowing throughout the years.”
Impellizzeri’s said he looks forward to continuing to learn from those around him while looking forward to what the future holds.
“I want to fly for as long as I possibly can,” he stated with certainty bouncing off each word. “I have this unique opportunity to not only fly the F-16 to its maximum potential, but I get to do that while showing off how truly amazing the air frame is to people all around the world. I feel such a sense of completion when I'm flying, so wherever that takes me, I will go.”
Impellizzeri nurtured a daydream into a flourishing reality allowing him to represent the PACAF while spreading trust, cohesion and unity across the Indo-Pacific region.