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PACAF F-16 Demo Team pilot turns childhood dream into reality

U.S Air Force Capt. Jacob “Primo” Impellizzeri, the Pacific Air Forces F-16 Fighting Falcon Demonstration Team commander and pilot, checks out an F-16 at the 43rd Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force – Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni Friendship Day 2019 at MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, May 5, 2019. After completing four years of Reserved Officers’ Training Corps, and earning a pilot slot, Impellizzeri attended the 56-week Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, in addition to a specialized F-16 training at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Collette Brooks)

U.S Air Force Capt. Jacob “Primo” Impellizzeri, the Pacific Air Forces F-16 Fighting Falcon Demonstration Team commander and pilot, checks out an F-16 at the 43rd Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force – Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni Friendship Day 2019 at MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, May 5, 2019. After completing four years of Reserved Officers’ Training Corps, and earning a pilot slot, Impellizzeri attended the 56-week Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, in addition to a specialized F-16 training at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. He arrived at Misawa Air Base in 2016 and became the PACAF F-16 Demo Team commander in 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Collette Brooks)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Jacob “Primo” Impellizzeri, the Pacific Air Forces F-16 Fighting Falcon Demonstration Team commander and pilot, performs an aerial demonstration at the 43rd Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force – Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni Friendship Day 2019 at MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, May 5, 2019. Impellizzeri describes flying in the F-16 as “freeing” because the bubble canopy on top gives a 360-degree point of view of the world around him. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Collette Brooks)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Jacob “Primo” Impellizzeri, the Pacific Air Forces F-16 Fighting Falcon Demonstration Team commander and pilot, performs in an aerial demonstration at the 43rd Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force – Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni Friendship Day 2019 at MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, May 5, 2019. Impellizzeri describes flying in the F-16 as “freeing” because the bubble canopy on top gives a 360-degree point of view of the world around him. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Collette Brooks)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Jacob “Primo” Impellizzeri, left, the Pacific Air Forces F-16 Fighting Falcon Demonstration Team commander and pilot, and Maj. Richard “Punch” Smeeding, right, a 13th Fighter Squadron F-16 pilot, pause for a photo on a mountain in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 27, 2019. In Impellizzeri’s free time, he enjoys hiking, skiing, hunting, boating, fishing and snowboarding. (Courtesy photo)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Jacob “Primo” Impellizzeri, left, the Pacific Air Forces F-16 Fighting Falcon Demonstration Team commander and pilot, and Maj. Richard “Punch” Smeeding, right, a former PACAF F-16 Demo Team commander, pause for a photo on a mountain in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 27, 2019. In Impellizzeri’s free time, he enjoys hiking, skiing, hunting, boating, fishing and snowboarding. (Courtesy photo)

The Pacific Air Forces F-16 Fighting Falcon Demonstration Team pauses for a photo at the 43rd Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force – Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni Friendship Day 2019 at MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, May 5, 2019. U.S. Air Force Capt. Jacob “Primo” Impellizzeri, the PACAF F-16 Fighting Falcon Demo Team commander and pilot, oversees the team which consists of three crew chiefs, two avionics specialists, one electrical and engineering specialist, one engines maintainer, one superintendent and a safety observer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Collette Brooks)

The Pacific Air Forces F-16 Fighting Falcon Demonstration Team pauses for a photo at the 43rd Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force – Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni Friendship Day 2019 at MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, May 5, 2019. U.S. Air Force Capt. Jacob “Primo” Impellizzeri, the PACAF F-16 Fighting Falcon Demo Team commander and pilot, oversees the team which consists of three crew chiefs, two avionics specialists, one electrical and engineering specialist, one engines maintainer, one superintendent and a safety observer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Collette Brooks)

A 43rd Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force – Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni Friendship Day 2019 attendee, left, shakes hands with Capt. Jacob “Primo” Impellizzeri, right, the Pacific Air Forces F-16 Fighting Falcon Demonstration Team commander and pilot, at MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, May 5, 2019. Impellizzeri’s work duties included interacting with air show event spectators, performing aerial demonstrations and organizing and executing demo team missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Collette Brooks)

A 43rd Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force – Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni Friendship Day 2019 attendee, left, shakes hands with U.S. Air Force Capt. Jacob “Primo” Impellizzeri, right, the Pacific Air Forces F-16 Fighting Falcon Demonstration Team commander and pilot, at MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, May 5, 2019. Impellizzeri’s work duties included interacting with air show event spectators, performing aerial demonstrations and organizing and executing demo team missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Collette Brooks)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Emily Wall, left, former lead crew chief, Capt. Jacob “Primo” Impellizzeri, center, commander and pilot, and Staff Sgt. Dane Pendzinski, right, crew chief, all with the Pacific Air Forces F-16 Fighting Falcon Demonstration Team, pause for a photo at the Aero India Air Show, India, Feb. 23, 2019. Impellizzeri and his team have travelled to South Korea, Alaska, New Zealand, India, Thailand, Guam, the United Kingdom and multiple Japan prefectures to promote cohesion, unity and friendship between the U.S. and its’ allies. (Courtesy photo)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Emily Wall, left, former lead crew chief, Capt. Jacob “Primo” Impellizzeri, center, commander and pilot, and Staff Sgt. Dane Pendzinski, right, crew chief, all with the Pacific Air Forces F-16 Fighting Falcon Demonstration Team, pause for a photo at the Aero India Air Show, India, Feb. 23, 2019. Impellizzeri and his team have travelled to South Korea, Alaska, New Zealand, India, Thailand, Guam, the United Kingdom and multiple Japan prefectures to promote cohesion, unity and friendship between the United States and its allies. (Courtesy photo)

Capt. Jacob “Primo” Impellizzeri, the Pacific Air Forces F-16 Fighting Falcon Demonstration Team commander and pilot, and his family pause for a photo at a local church, March 5, 2017. Impellizzeri attributes his success as a pilot to the love and support received from family, friends and his faith. (Courtesy photo)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Jacob “Primo” Impellizzeri, the Pacific Air Forces F-16 Fighting Falcon Demonstration Team commander and pilot, and his family pause for a photo at a local church, March 5, 2017. Impellizzeri attributes his success as a pilot to the love and support received from family, friends and his faith. (Courtesy photo)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Jacob “Primo” Impellizzeri, center right, the Pacific Air Forces F-16 Fighting Falcon Demonstration Team commander and pilot, pauses for a photo with retired U.S Air Force Col. George Rice, left, his maternal grandfather, and former U.S. Air Force Capt. Ken Impellizzeri, center, his father, and former Cpl. U.S. Army Air Corps Donald Impellizzeri, right, his paternal grandfather, right, after his commissioning ceremony at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, June 8, 2012. Post high school graduation Impellizzeri attended the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program resulting in a continued family legacy of service. (Courtesy photo)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Jacob “Primo” Impellizzeri, center right, Pacific Air Forces F-16 Fighting Falcon Demonstration Team commander and pilot, pauses for a photo with retired U.S Air Force Col. George Rice, left, his maternal grandfather, and former U.S. Air Force Capt. Ken Impellizzeri, center, his father, and former Cpl. U.S. Army Air Corps Donald Impellizzeri, right, his paternal grandfather, after his commissioning ceremony at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, June 8, 2012. Post-high school graduation, Impellizzeri commissioned through the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program, creating a continued family legacy of service. (Courtesy photo)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan --

Rows of vendors saturated the fairgrounds with the smell of freshly-grilled meat. Visitors filled their bellies with the local cuisine and posed with various aircraft static displays, loading their phone with keepsake photos.

Some winced at the ear-piercing jets as they flew over, but one little boy maintained complete focus. Every twist and turn of the aircraft in the cotton candy-colored sky left a mark in his mind and vivid impression on his heart as he developed an lasting admiration for flying.

Capt. Jacob “Primo” Impellizzeri, the Pacific Air Forces F-16 Fighting Falcon Demonstration Team commander and pilot, grew up attending countless aerial performances, resulting in a passion for aviation.

Impellizzeri travelled annually from his hometown in, Cincinnati, Ohio, to the Dayton Air Show in Vandalia, Ohio, with his mother, father, brother and sister.

“Those air shows were the spark that ignited my future,” Impellizzeri explained. “Combined with my family’s influence, I realized I was destined to be a fighter pilot.”

Impellizzeri comes from a long line of officers and enlisted service members. In his youth, he idolized one influential aviator in particular, former Capt. Ken Impellizzeri, or “dad” for short.

“My father was an Air Force Lockheed C-130 Hercules pilot for 10 years,” explained Impellizzeri. “His love for flying inspired me to turn my own passion for aviation into a reality.”

In high school, Impellizzeri began attending flight and ground school to earn his private pilot license.

“I essentially had no ‘off days’ during that time in my life,” Impellizzeri chuckled. “However, my jam-packed school schedule never bothered me because I wanted to be there.”

Post-high school graduation, Impellizzeri completed four years with the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program at Wright State University in Fairborn, Ohio, earning his private pilot license and a pilot slot with the U.S. Air Force.

The 56-week Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, and a specialized F-16 program at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., may have prepared him for a one and a half-year short tour in South Korea, but in 2016, Impellizzeri received orders to Misawa Air Base, Japan.

“I didn’t even know we had a demo team here,” laughed Impellizzeri. “One day while I was waiting at the end of the runway for takeoff, I got a glimpse of the previous demo team pilot, Maj. Richard “Punch” Smeeding, practicing his aerial performance. I felt nostalgic and absolutely blown away by his demonstration. I knew, in that moment, I had to be a part of the demo team.”

Impellizzeri completed instructor pilot training to get the demonstration pilot upgrade which included more than 20 rides, an in-person interview with his leadership and a certification ride with the PACAF commander to qualify for the position.

“I was used to seeing Smeeding perform, but watching Impellizzeri in his first solo flight was probably one of my proudest moments to date,” explained Master Sgt. Jeff Parker, the PACAF F-16 Demonstration Team superintendent. “His improvement from those first few flights to today has been an amazing progression to see.”

Not only did Impellizzeri grow from a fresh pilot to a seasoned performer, he also experienced a “full circle” moment.

“Today marks my one year anniversary as the PACAF F-16 Demo Team pilot,” Impellizzeri expressed with gratitude pouring over each sentence. “I went from being a five-year-old kid idolizing pilots to living it. I attribute my success to a combination of luck, drive, timing and incredible support from my family, friends and teammates.”

Impellizzeri oversees a team of three crew chiefs, two avionics specialists, one electrical and engineering specialist, one engines maintainer, safety observer and superintendent who also enjoys his leadership.

"The captain's work ethic is impeccable,” expressed Parker. “He’s a great leader. He consistently displays professionalism and care, making work with him a great pleasure.”

Not only is Impellizzeri close with his teammates, but he maintains that same strong connection with his daily pilot duties.

“Flying these powerful aircraft is an amazing feeling; it’s like an extension of my body,” he said as his auburn eyes gazed upward. “The bubble canopy gives a 360-degree point of view of the world. It’s almost indescribable, but it’s the ultimate freedom.”

Although Impellizzeri is a world traveler, one piece of him he never forgets to pack is his admiration and love for those he cherishes.

“My friends, family members and faith keep me resilient,” he explained. “The values and passion I have as an aviator stems from the strong background of hard working men and women I’ve known.”

Impellizzeri’s positive circle of influences aids in his own personal love of soaring the sky.

“I want to fly for as long as I possibly can,” he gushed. “Not only do I have the opportunity to fly the F-16 to its maximum potential, but I get to show people all around the world just how incredible the airframe is. I find an immense amount of pleasure in flying, so wherever that takes me, I will go.”

Impellizzeri has nurtured a daydream into a flourishing reality that allows him to represent PACAF and spread trust and cohesion across the Indo-Pacific and U.S. allies.