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F-16 Viper Demo Thunders Over the Ocean City Airshow

The F-16 Viper Demonstration Team stands poised ready to perform at air shows across the United States, Canada, and the U.K. in 2019. (USAF)

OCEAN CITY, MD — The Air Force’s popular F-16 Viper jet unleashed the thunder and the thrust on Saturday as it performed over the crowded beaches during the Ocean City Air Show.

Unlike other clean jet demonstration teams, this Viper jet is here direct from Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina. It can be turned around for combat operations within minutes if necessary.

Ocean City’s two-day air show will mark the Viper Demonstration Team’s sixth air show of the young season. They are scheduled to perform at 21 locations across North America this year.

F-16 Viper Demo pilot Major Garett “Toro” Schmitz performs over Ocean City, Maryland on Saturday. (USAF)

“We go around the nation to demonstrate the combat capabilities of the F-16 Viper,” Viper Demo Team pilot Major Garett “Toro” Schmitz said from NASA Wallops Flight Facility on Thursday. “It’s gonna be a low show, a high show, it’s gonna be fast, it’s gonna be loud as we show the public the capabilities of the F-16.”

During the flight over the runway, air show guests will witness several close-up low passes followed by may dizzying rolls and high speed climbs. One maneuver known as the triple roll has Toro roll the aircraft 360-degrees three times in succession. The Block 50 F-16 and its pilot will push nine G’s about 20 times during its brief performance.

He then follows this up by quickly performing a tight 9-G turn to demonstrate the tights turns the viper can perform. Nine Gs is equal to nine times his body weight of pressure upon his body as he works to stay conscious during the turn. It is at these maximum Gs a pilot can black-out as blood flow leaves his head.

“The whole reason I got into being a fight pilot is because the Viper Demo Team ,” Toro began as a smile filled his face. “I saw them perform when I was 10, and remember seeing the pilot do the max performance climb, disappear and spiral into oblivion, and that made me do what I’m doing now.”

The F-16 Viper does not perform with its external fuel tanks during an air show. (Charles Atkeison)

Midway through Maj. Schmitz 12-minute flight, he teases the sound barrier by piloting the Viper to a speed of nearly Mach 1. As he dives down toward the runway at 300 m.p.h. and levels off, Toro accelerates to nearly 950-feet per second or a crossing speed of three football fields per second.

During each show, Toro will join his F-16 with a classic Air Force aircraft to form the Heritage Flight. On Saturday, it was a P-51 Mustang. The Heritage Flight has become a crowd favorite during its 22 year history.

“It’s to commemorate the past and the present, and it’s really cool to get the modern and old warbirds together,” Maj. Schmitz added. “They’re priceless warbirds.”

(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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