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.
“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 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.)