Sky's the limit for newest PACAF demonstration pilot
May 20, 2006
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — When Maj. Jon Plasterer throttles his fighter jet into a 9-G turn, his head weighs in at about 250 pounds. He compares the force of gravity on his lean frame to the pinning pressure exerted through a roller coaster loop — multiplied by four.
“You just got to deal with it,” he said.
Plasterer did just that Wednesday while becoming Pacific Air Forces’ latest demonstration-team pilot. After watching about 15 minutes of supersonic passes and high-flying maneuvers, U.S. Forces Japan Commander Lt. Gen. Bruce Wright certified the 33-year-old 14th Fighter Squadron aviator and his team of safety observers and maintainers.
“We look for absolute adherence to established flight parameters to ensure absolute safe operations,” Wright said after the show. In a debriefing that was to follow, Wright said, he would tell the team “keep focusing on achieving perfect parameters.”
Plasterer said Wright also offered him some tongue-in-cheek advice: “Make sure I don’t fall off the ladder.”
Now that it’s certified, the PACAF demonstration team will embark on a busy summer of air shows in the Pacific region, starting with a July 15 show at Hofu Air Base in southern Japan. The team also will perform at Misawa’s air show later this year.
“I’m glad they gave me the opportunity to do this,” Plasterer said. “I’m ready to go out there and start doing it for crowds.”
Plasterer replaced Capt. Chris Schneider, who is moving on to another base. Plasterer was selected for the job based on his rank, experience and motivation, said Brig. Gen. Sam Angelella, 35th Fighter Wing commander, who also observed Wednesday’s demonstration.
Leading up to the certification, Plasterer completed 17 training sorties that began with a ride behind Schneider in an F-16 two-seater. He later flew solo at increasingly lower altitudes, eventually reaching the show ceiling of 300 to 500 feet. “It’s a building block approach,” Angelella said.
During the practice run Wednesday, Plasterer stayed in constant communication with safety observer Capt. Matthew Spears, relaying his altitude and speed before entering each maneuver.
“He double-checks that I’m on the right parameters,” Plasterer said. “If I’m not, he’ll tell me to abort. He also makes sure there’s no birds or unidentified aircraft … in the show area because I don’t have enough time to clear.”
The drills appeared to go off seamlessly, much to the relief of Mary Plasterer, who sat on the flight line watching her husband’s routine from start to finish. “It just makes me nervous,” she said.
Plasterer said he also had butterflies: “I want to make sure the show looks good.” But the high G-turns, he said, did nothing to his stomach.
Growing up in Lebanon, Pa., Plasterer worked at nearby Hershey Park in the summers as a kid.
“You get a free pass,” he said. “My sister and I would just go ride the roller coasters constantly. I loved it. I guess it was training, but I didn’t know it at the time.”