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F-16 Viper Demo Team Announces New Pilot for 2019-20

Air Combat Command at JB Langley confirmed on Wednesday Major Garret "Toro" Schmitz as the new F-16 Viper Demo Team pilot and commander. (USAF)

SHAW AFB, S.C. — The U.S. Air Force F-16 Viper Demonstration Team announced on Thursday their new commander and pilot for the 2019 and 2020 air show seasons.

Major Garret “Toro” Schmitz will both lead the team and pilot the F-16 Viper jet at select air show across the United States for the next two seasons. His first public performance is scheduled for the Westmoreland County Air Show in Latrobe, Penn. next weekend.

New F-16 Viper Demo pilot Major Garret Schmitz will perform in Latrobe, Pa. in two weeks. (USAF)

“After 22 training flights and more than 45 hours of study, Maj. Garret Schmitz has completed his fourth certification and earned the privilege of leading us as we inspire the next generation of pilots, maintainers, and Airmen,” JB Langley spokesperson Kathryn Reaves said.

The Utah native and the demo team arrived at JB Langley, Virginia, on Wednesday for Maj. Schmitz final certification flight. Each Air Combat Command pilot has to complete a rigorous training course to receive the high certification from the four levels of leadership within the Air Force, Reaves confirmed.

Maj. Schmitz is scheduled to perform at about 39 shows during the next two seasons. Following Latrobe, his team will travel to Tinker, AFB in Oklahoma, followed by Smyrna, Tennessee in June.

The updated 2019 F-16 Viper Demo Team Schedule. (USAF)

The Lockheed-Martin F-16C is a multi-role fighter aircraft — highly maneuverable and  mission proven in over 30 years of operations including air-to-air combat and air-to-surface attack. It provides a relatively low-cost, high-performance weapon system for the United States and 25 friendly nations, the Air Force said in a recent statement.

Outgoing Viper Demo pilot Major John “Rain” Waters, who has led the team for over two years, will perform one final flight on May 26. Waters will perform a flyover of the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 race prior to the drop of the green flag.

(Charles A Atkeison reports on aerospace and technology. Follow his updates via social media @Military_Flight.)

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Charles Atkeison

Written by Charles Atkeison

Charles A Atkeison is a long time aerospace journalist having covered both military and civilian aviation, plus 30 space shuttle launches from Cape Canaveral. He has produced multimedia aerospace content for CNN, London's Sky News, radio, print, and the web for twenty years. From flying with his father at age 5 to soaring as a VIP recently with the Navy's Blue Angels and USAF Thunderbirds, Charles continues to enjoy all aspects of flight.

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