Pilot looking forward to Warbirds Over Wanaka

07 March 18

US Air Force F-16 pilot Richard ‘Punch’ Smeeding is promising an exhilarating display when the Fighting Falcon demonstration team performs at Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow this Easter.

The F-16 team will be coming to Wanaka from their home at the Misawa Air Force base in Japan for their first ever display at a civilian airshow in New Zealand.

Richard is looking forward to being part of the 30th Anniversary Warbirds Over Wanaka Airshow and notes it’s only the second time since 1984 that the jets have displayed in New Zealand after they attended the RNZAF airshow at Ohakea last year.

Richard rates the F-16 as the best aircraft he’s ever flown.  “One tail, one engine, one pilot – the way God intended”.

He says there are a number of reasons why the aircraft is such an amazing machine to fly.  “The jet will let me pull minus 3 to 9.9g’s, go twice the speed of sound, rage through the mountains at 100ft fully loaded for war and all the time flying like an extension of my body.”

“My favourite thing to do is fly OCA-SEAD (Offensive Counter Air – Suppression of Enemy Air Defences), leading several hundred aircraft missions doing air-to-air while destroying ground targets and dismantling complex IADS (integrated air defence systems) in a single seat fighter.”

Richard says after a number of years he still gets a kick out of climbing into the cockpit of the F-16. “I still have to remind myself that I am actually sitting in such a beautifully terrifying machine. Once the canopy comes down you’re ‘in the zone’, master of your destiny and a terror to the enemy,” says Richard.

Richard will be finishing up with the F-16 demonstration team soon and is bringing his replacement, Captain Jacob ‘Primo’ Impellizzeri, to Wanaka as a ground observer.

Richard says the one aircraft he would love to fly is the North American F-86 Sabre.  The Sabre was first built in 1949 and played a pivotal role in the Korean War (1950-1953) engaging with the Russian MIG-15 in some of the first ever jet-to-jet air battles in history.

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