Thank you for your time! Please introduce yourself to our readers. When did you joined the airforce, which squadron you are flying, what types you have flown?
My name Senior-Captain Aviator Tom De Moortel, I go by “Gizmo”. I’m the current display pilot F-16 for the Belgian Air Force. I joined the Air Force in 1996. I got my wings in 1998 and started my career flying the Hercules. Later I flew as an instructor pilot in basic training for a couple of years and in 2005 I started flying the Viper. I flew in 31 Tiger squadron until 2013 when I became the flight safety officer for Kleine Brogel Airbase.
Since when you are the pilot of the Belgian Air Force F-16 Demo?
2015 was my first year as display pilot. Air Force policy is to rotate display pilots every 3 years.
How many ours you have flown with the type?
I have about 4500 flying hours of which around 1500 hrs in the Viper.
This year will mark an important year of the Belgian Air Force, and an airshow will be held for that occasion at Florennes air base. Are you excited to perform at such an event?
In 2014 I was closely involved in organizing the Belgian Air Force Days in Kleine Brogel so for me it extra special to be able to experience this years edition from a participants side. It is as well one of the rare opportunities for family and friends of all the team members to come and watch the display. I get to meet team members’ families and I hope I can live up to expectancies of both families and colleagues. Belgian Air Force has a long tradition of F-16 display flying. This makes it really challenging to design a display routine since so many colleagues will be watching.
Can you summarize the 2015? Any favourite moments, airshows?
2015 was of course a year filled with “firsts” as it was all new to me. Luckily I could count on a solid team with some “old” hands to support me. Every show we did was a first so plenty of different experiences. It’s hard to name favorites and I don’t think as performer we should voice favorites. Organizing airshows is a huge effort so every organization deserves credit and respect.
Anything special for 2016, that you can tell us?
We can’t disclose the agenda yet as it needs to get approval at all levels first. Moreover we are still receiving requests so the schedule is “under construction”
Tell us a little about the team. How many people are there who help you?
I’m really lucky in that department. I have 3 teams each consisting of a team chief, 2 crew chiefs, a weapons specialist for the smoke winders and an assistant weapon specialist for technical support. They all double up to do all the PR work, manning our stand at each show. There are also 2 coaches. Those are basically 2 experienced pilots that always fly the spare aircraft to the shows and during the display they monitor and supervise the performance. They can always call me on the radio if needed and they really help me out monitoring things like malfunctions of the smoke winders. They help me out as well with mission planning for all the ferry flights. During the rehearsals prior the season they are always in the tower monitoring the flight. That’s especially helpful to fine-tune the design of a routine. Except for video tapes I never get to see how it looks from the outside. So some expert advise is a must. And last but definitely not least there the team manager. He is coordinating all technical and logistical support for the 3 teams and runs a lot of admin stuff for the team.
Did you already started the training for the 2016 year? Anything new in your program?
We are now in the phase of designing the routine and other non-flying preparations. I’m running the routine in the simulator next week and if we’re happy with all parameters we’ll go back to the real thing and start flying somewhere end of February.
According to the news at the moment, the Hellenic Air Force’s F-16 Solo Demo will be there at Florennes as well. Do you track other F-16 Demo’s, are you in contact with the pilots?
Sure. We look at each other’s calendars to see which shows we’ll meet each other during the season. We meet prior the season as well during the European Airshow Council. Since a couple of years we’re having a gathering the day prior the EAC with European fast jet display pilots to share experiences and learn from each other. So we all know each other and maintain in contact through things like whatsapp groups etc.
If one day, the Air Force would tell you…you cold choose any airshows you want to perform…which one would it be?
I haven’t really though about that. Actually I’m happy if they just let me fly as many shows as possible.
Thank you for your time. Any final words to our readers?
As last year we are going to work really hard to try and bring a entertaining performance to the public showing the mighty Viper. If you are attending one of the shows please come and visit our stand to meet us in person. If you don’t have the opportunity to come and see us you can always keep an eye on our website or our FB page We try to keep it up to date and share some of the pictures and movies.