Captain Ken Impellizeri, Delta Airlines, retired, is humbly proud in discussing his youngest son, Jake, a member of the elite Air Force Thunderbirds demonstration team squadron, based at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. Ken, a resident of Legendary Run, hangars his Grumman Tiger at Sporty’s and the Clermont County Airport and was kind enough to share his thoughts on his son’s aviation journey and Thunderbirds assignment.
Ken, an Air Force Academy graduate, spent eight years in the Air Force himself, at the controls of the C-130 Hercules, before embarking on a 33-year career with Delta Airlines. After spending time flying the B-727, DC-9, B-737, B-757, and B-767, Ken retired from the A-330 during the pandemic.
While it was clearly in his blood, son Jake didn’t start seriously considering aviation until his senior year at Anderson High School. Jake earned his recreational pilot certificate at Sporty’s in 2008, before enrolling at Wright State University. He would later earn his private pilot certificate at the Wright Patterson Aero Club. Jake was awarded a scholarship for his final three years at Wright State, as part of the Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps program, before earning his commission.
Jake began Air Force pilot training at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas in 2013 and was assigned to the F-16 Fighting Falcon. While stationed at Osan Air Base in South Korea, Jake quickly rose to the rank of lead pilot. Later, while stationed at Misawa Air Base in Japan, Jake was promoted to instructor pilot on the F-16 and soon began serving as an F-16 demonstration pilot, showcasing the combat capabilities of one of the Air Force’s premier, multi-role fighter aircraft.
Before joining the Thunderbirds in 2021, Jake served as an F-16 Flight Evaluator and Chief of Standardization and Evaluation, assigned to the 79th Fighter Squadron at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina. He began his Thunderbirds assignment as the #8 Advance Pilot/Narrator, coordinating air show operations and serving as the narrator during the show.
For the 2023 season, Jake was selected as the Thunderbirds #3, Right Wing Pilot, flying as close as 18 inches from the #1 jet during flight formations, demonstrating the teamwork and precision of this nation’s Air Force. For the 2024 season Jake will be moving to Thunderbird #4, the slot position. His schedule is demanding, with Jake traveling as much as 300 days per year, frequently traveling directly from show to show.
Jake’s parents, Ken and Jill, are fortunate to be able to travel to six or more shows per year to see Jake perform, often flying to shows in the Tiger. When asked about what it means to him to witness his son Jake’s remarkable achievement, representing our country on a world stage, Ken is quick to give all the credit to Jake and to the talented men and women of the United States Armed Forces.
The Thunderbirds perform for people around the world to display the pride, precision and professionalism that the United States Air Force represents. Their demonstrations involve six aircraft, executing formation flying and solo routines. The four-ship diamond formation showcases the precision and training of Air Force pilots, as well as the gracefulness of the aircraft. The two solos display the power and maximum capabilities of the F-16 Fighting Falcon.
To view the Thunderbirds demonstration schedule, please visit https://www.airforce.com/thunderbirds/schedule.