Maj. John “Rain” Waters – Viper Demo Pilot Interview
First, please introduce yourself
I am Major John “Rain” Waters and I am the Commander and Pilot for the F-16 Viper Demo Team. I am originally from Peachtree City, GA. I grew up in an aviation community which definitely contributed to my current job. I got my pilot’s license at 17 in a C-152 tail dragger. I’ve been hooked on flying ever since. I was fortunate enough to earn a pilot’s slot out of college and attended pilot training in Columbus, Mississippi. After pilot training I remained as an instructor in the T-6II for three years then moved onto the F-16.
How can someone become the Viper Demo team pilot?
Right place, right time. The demo team is assigned to Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina. Step one, you need to be assigned to the base when it comes time to hire a new pilot. Step two, you need to have the right qualifications and experience to apply. The application process varies but typically involves several interviews with leadership to determine the next pilot.
Please introduce us the F-16 you fly, and a little bit of personal feeling about it.
I fly a Block 50 F-16. In the demo I fly a clean F-16. When I start the demo the jet weight just over 28,000 pounds but the engine produces nearly 30,000 pounds of thrust. Bottomline it’s impressive. I always say flying the Viper is like strapping a rocket on your back, you wear the Viper.
Where are you now at the moment? Already started training?
We are beginning the show season and for me, I am entering my third year as the demo pilot.
How many people help you in the team?
We have a team 10 maintenance and public affairs specialists that make the mission of the Viper Demo Team happen.
How do you put the program together, you have any word in it?
Our display was developed many years ago. We can tweak a few minor items but everything is flown in accordance with our regulations and the demo pilot is not allowed to deviate from the planned program.
Who decided where you perform?
There are four single ship demo teams in the U.S. Air Force. The F-35, F-22, A-10, and F-16 demo teams. Our schedules are built and coordinated through our Aerial Events Office in Air Combat Command.
When you not perform as a display pilot, what do you do? How a week looks in your life?
For us being the demo pilot is a full time job. Each season I spent around 220 days on the road. Occasionally, between long breaks between shows I will try and fly tactical sorties or simulators with the line fighter squadron. But normally when we are in the show season it’s busy. The team will start traveling on Wednesday. I will fly in on Thursday. We will fly the show Friday through Sunday. Monday we will depart. Take Tuesday off and then repeat.
Any airshow from the 2019 season you are already prepapring as a „big event” for yourself?
I will only be flying a few shows this season as I spin up a new replacement. With that said I am excited that I get to return to Sun N’ Fun for a third straight year.
Are you planning to perform with the other solo displays or demo teams in the season?
The F-16 Demo team will cross paths with a few other demo teams this season. The fun part will be the heritage formations where we will mix the demo teams and various warbirds.
Do you know any other solo display from the World? Any favourite maybe?
I was fortunate to take part in the 2017 Dubai Airshow as well as the 2018 Bahrain Airshow. Being able to watch displays from other nations and other platforms was an incredible experience. Impossible to narrow it down to one because they each bring something unique and exciting.
Are there any airshows from the World you would really like to perform with the F-16 if you could have a chance?
That’s tough, I have been fortunate to travel to several other nations to fly demos. Each have been awesome. Europe, Australia, or if I could go back to Rio Negro, Colombia.
Any other favourite jet besides the F-16?
There are other jets besides the F-16????
Any favourite moment from you Viper Demo time?
It’s the people. I am fortunate to work with some of the most talented and motivated people the Air Force has to offer. They have truly made this the best job in the world and the highlight of my career.
Surely you have a lot of feedbacks from the people after a show. Where can the pople find you and the team? Any website?
Check out the F-16 Viper Demo Team on Facebook at @viperdemoteam
Thank you again, any final word to our readers?