This unit of rugged warbirds is stationed out of the Phoenix Deer Valley Airport. The Desert Rats Demonstration Team flies in 4-plane formations, and is made up of experienced Arizona pilots.
Lt. Col. (ret) Mike “Beav” Carter is the Demo Team lead. He flew the F-4 and F-16 during his 20-year Air Force career, which included time as the 61st Fighter Squadron “Top Dogs” commander at Luke AFB. He still flies professionally as a Southwest Airlines Captain, based out of Phoenix.
The number 2 pilot is Lt Col (ret) Rich “Scratch” Tomich. He also flew the F-4 and F-16 throughout his 20-year Air Force career, as well as a Boeing 737 during his 22-year civilian career with Southwest.
Pilot number 3 is Delta Airlines Capt. Pat “Kato” Giery. Kato flies the Boeing 767-400 as a line check airman. He is also the current President of the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Warbird Squadron 20 at Phoenix Deer Valley Airport.
The Team’s number 4 is Capt (ret) Dee “Reaper” Grimm. As an active duty Air Force member, he flew the KC-97, and then flew the C97 while in the Missouri ANG. He spent his civilian career with TWA, and has since retired and lives in Phoenix.
The Desert Rats will be flying the CJ-6. This is a two-seat, military aircraft that was primarily used for training. It can be fitted with weaponry for light attack operations, though. Originally produced in 1958, it was the first ever plane completely designed and manufactured in China. At 33ft wide and 27ft long, it is fully aerobatic and reaches speeds up to 202 knots. It’s become popular due to its rugged and inexpensive design, and ease of upkeep.
The Desert Rats will excite the crowds in Tucson with Diamond, Close Trail and Arrowhead formations, as well as Opposing passes at high speeds. World-class excitement from a hometown team.