Interview with USAF F-16 Viper Demo Crew Chief


My Name is Staff Sgt. Billy Harris and I am one of the dedicated crew chiefs for the F-16 Viper Demo Team. I have been in the Air Force for 8 years and have been stationed at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Osan Air Base, Korea, Aviano Air Base, Italy, and Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina.

Not many people know the F-16 Viper Demo Team. Please Tell us its history.

The F-16 Demo team started in the early 1990s and has been performing ever since. Before sequestration in 2012 there were 2 F-16 Demo Team, Viper East and Viper West demo. When the team was brought back in 2015 they merged the 2 and we are now just the F-16 Viper Demo Team.

The team is comprised of 1 pilot, a superintendent, a non-commissioned officer in charge, 1 Avionics Specialist, 3 dedicated crew chiefs, and 1 public affairs coordinator.

On a typical season the demo team will perform 20 – 22 air shows each year traveling across the U.S. and Canada.

What does a crew chief do through a season?

During the season the crew chiefs still perform the normal day to day duties. These duties entail, maintaining the aircrafts designated to us to use by keeping up with inspections, scheduled maintenance ensuring the aircraft are ready to fly. Also we keep up on our training and practice for the next upcoming shows.

Who decides which airshows the Team perform?

At the international council of Air Shows that is held every year in Las Vegas, people are able to solicit for their respective Air Shows and try to get one of the Air Forces demo teams to perform at their location.
From there the people at Air Combat Commands aerial events section narrows down where will perform.

Outside the USA, where does the Team regularly perform?

Typically a season will consist of primarily U.S. Air Shows with the occasional trip to Canada throughout the season.

Are you in contact with the other US demo teams? Do you guys go to each other during airshows, try to change ideas with each other?

Typically a season will consist of primarily U.S. Air Shows with the occasional trip to Canada throughout the season. Throughout the season we will travel to a number of airshows and have the opportunity to interact with the other demo teams. We work hand-in-hand with the other Air Force single ship demo teams, the F-22 Raptor Demo team and the F-35 Heritage Flight Team, to share ideas and different things that work and don’t work so that we can make sure we provide our audiences with the best experience as possible.

As a crew chief, what can you tell about the F-16 as a jet? Perfect for a solo demo? Easy to maintain?

The F-16 is a multi-roll fighter aircraft, meaning it can play multiple roles to fit in any kind of situation. These rolls are either being air to air meaning fighting against other aircraft or air to ground meaning can provide close air support for troops on the ground or eliminate other targets on the ground. The maneuverability and combat capabilities of this aircraft make for an excellent demonstration with the tight turning radius with the high speeds this aircraft is capable of performing. When it comes to maintaining the F-16 it can be a difficult task but with the series of maintainers with specific job titles we work as a team to ensure every aircraft is ready to fly with no defects.

As a crew chief do you have a say in choosing a demo pilot for the Viper Demo Team?

The pilot is chosen through his chain of command through an interview process. After being selected he must complete four certification flights to ensure he is ready to perform the demo

The USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military in 1947, so 2017 will be an anniversary year, does the team involved?

After the performance of our demo we perform what is called the Heritage Flight. That where our pilot will fly alongside World War II or Vietnam era aircraft and fly in formation honoring those who have served before us and paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country.

Rumors says, that the USAF is planning big for RIAT (England) this year. Does the Viper Demo included in this? What can you tell? Besides the RIAT rumor, what can you tell for the team’s 2017 season?

We are still awaiting for our schedule to be released.

In Europe we have the Belgian F-16 Solo Demo, the Greek F-16 Zeus Solo and the F-16 Solo Türk from Turkey. You know these teams?

Unfortunately I have not had the opportunity to see any of those teams perform, but it would be awesome to be able to someday.

Any favorite demo team, solo included, you have around the World?

Obviously I’m biased towards this, but my favorite demo that I have ever seen is ours. It’s a remarkable aircraft and to watch it be pushed to the limit to really show what it can do is incredible and it’s an honor to be able to work on them with the team.

Thank you for your time, any final words to our readers?

If you get a chance to see the Viper in action don’t miss it! It is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and nothing is better than watching an F-16 fly through the air and show why it is one of the most reliable aircraft in the Air Force arsenal.