USAF F-16 Viper driver explains why flying fast and low is one of the better perks of being a Fighter Pilot

USAF F-16 Viper driver explains why flying fast and low is one of the better perks of being a Fighter Pilot

By Dario Leone
Oct 30 2023
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Low flying military training

Low flying military training involves military aircraft flying at low altitude to prepare their aircrew, and other military personnel (e.g. air defence troops), for nap-of-the-earth flying in wartime. The aircraft types can include advanced trainers, ground-attack aircraft, transports and helicopters.

Some countries have sufficiently large military reservations for such training to take place without affecting the civilian population.

According to Rick Scheff, US Air Force (USAF) F-16 Viper pilot, flying airplanes extremely fast at low altitude is one of the better perks of being a fighter pilot.

F-16 Flying fast and low

He explains on Quora;

‘For most people there are speed limits. 250 kts below 10,000 feet and 200 kts below class B, or near C or D airports are the two big ones. Fortunately for me, and unfortunately for the speed hating f******s at the FAA I fly this marvelous beast:

Shaw Viper

The F-16 cannot safely fly that slowly with a full load of fuel and weapons, so we don’t. While flying I have something I would kill for while driving: immunity to speed limits.

‘Most configurations we fly in are limited by our own tech orders to 600 kts at low altitude, so it isn’t uncommon for me to fly 597 kts. Using ratios, flying 597 in a 250 is equivalent to driving 167 in a 70.

‘Even better, we fly landing patterns at airports at 350 kts, so a normal day ends with a pattern flown at 1.75X the speed limit for the airport where we’re going to land. That would be equivalent to changing your neighborhood speed rules from maximum 25 mph to typical 44 mph. Imagine how quickly you’d get home.

‘Occasionally ATC will space out and will ask me to slow and maintain some speed for spacing. It’s usually too slow so I tell them no. I get to do that. They get to accommodate. It’s wonderful.’

Scheff concludes;

‘There are many perks to what I do, but getting to fly way faster than everyone else is definitely one of the better ones.’

Shaw F-16C print
This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET  YOURS.  F-16CM Fighting Falcon 20th Fighter Wing, 77th Fighter Squadron “Gamblers”, SW/94-0044 – Shaw AFB, SC

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force


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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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