Wings Over Tyler Air Show Attracts Best Pilots In Business
By JACQUE HILBURN-SIMMONS
Wings Over Tyler may be a new event for the city, but the lineup of veteran pilots planning to appear in the July 3 event are among the best fliers around.
That's the assessment of jet aerobatics pilot Randy Ball, who plans to fly his "Check Six" MiG-17F in Tyler's first waivered air show.
"Everyone flying in there are friends of mine," he said. "They are some of the biggest names in the air show business. This is rare -- East Texas hasn't had a major air show that I know of in decades. I think this will be our launch."
Airfield waivers mean the aircraft can perform aerobatic stunts and exceed limits typically not allowed under federal law.
If conditions are good, Ball said he will fly less than 50 feet off the ground at roughly 700 miles per hour.
More than 20,000 people are expected to attend the July 3 event at Tyler Pounds Regional Airport, making the one-day event among the city's largest.
The show is expected to include more than three hours of nail-biting aerobatics, thunderous flyovers and an action-packed Pearl Harbor re-enactment.
It is expected to feature a collection of new and vintage planes from World War II, as well as jets from Korea, Vietnam and today, including two F-16s from the Viper West Coast Demo Team.
Ball said it usually takes several years for air shows to build credibility among the performers, but Tyler's show is different.
The anticipated lineup is equivalent to a third-year show.
"It almost never happens," Ball said. "We're kicking off something for East Texas it hasn't had."
The pilot, who lives outside Gun Barrel City and stations out of Tyler Pounds Regional Airport, said supporters of the Historic Aviation Memorial Museum have been wanting a show for years.
After several years of kicking it around, organizers found enough support to make it a reality.
"I'm really looking forward to performing in my adopted hometown," Ball said.
With the air show about two weeks away, organizers are busy tying up loose ends.
Volunteers are needed to help with set-up and clean-up duties.
"People really don't know how awesome this is going to be," Randa Conner, who serves on the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce Aviation Committee, said. "This is like having the Blue Angels or the Thunderbirds here -- it's a really big thing. It's very exciting."
The show is expected to include a fiery Pearl Harbor re-enactment, featuring six planes from Tora! Tora! Tora!, complete with pyrotechnics and towering mushrooms of black smoke.
"There will be explosions so that it looks like they are dropping bombs," Carolyn Verver, Historic Aviation Memorial Museum board president, said. "It will be an awesome sight."
Other listed performers include Jan Collmer's EXTRA 300L acrobatic plane; the Trojan Phlyers T-28 flight demonstration team; Herb and Ditto's Smoke Ring Acr-obatics; A-10 Warthogs from Barksdale Air Force Base reserve unit - Shreveport; C-130 from the Fort Worth Air National Guard; B-25 "Devil Dog," courtesy of the Com-memorative Air Force - Georgetown; L-29 Delfin; Matt Yonkin's Twin Beech; Chris Avery's CAF F4U Corsair; Curtiss P40 and Jack Pyland Jumper with a 45-foot American flag.
A flyover by B-52, B1 or B2 bombers also is possible, organizers said.
Many East Texans have never seen an air show so they may not realize the significance of the event, Ms. Conner said.
"This could spark something in a child, maybe one with no direction, that would make them want to become a pilot," she said. "Aviation is a very interesting business."
Aside from the big name performers, low admission prices make the event accessible for families and people on modest budgets.
Admission is based on parking -- $25 per carload to park at the airport or a bargain $5 per person for off-site.
Ms. Conner said, "$5 covers the bus ride to the airport and the admission. It's a discounted rate because they are using off-site parking."
Spaces reserved for satellite parking include the Greater Tyler Auto Auction and Harvey Convention Cen-ter.
Gates are scheduled to open at 9 a.m., allowing participants to catch a close-up view of the planes before they take to the air.
Flying entertainment beg-ins about noon.
It's going to be hot, so visitors are encouraged to bring lawn chairs, umbrellas and sunscreen, although some bleachers will be available for seating.
Pets, ice chests, alcoholic beverages and smoking are prohibited, officials said.
Patrons will have access to water and vendors will be on hand for food and other refreshments, organizers said.
Those who want to greet performers before they take to the skies can attend a special "meet the pilots" gala planned for July 2, the evening before the show.
The come-and-go event is planned for 5 to 10 p.m. July 2 at the aviation museum, 150 Airport Drive.
Gala admission is $10 for adults, $5 for children at the door. No advance tickets will be sold.
Proceeds from the event benefit the Alzheimer's Alliance of Smith County and Texas Wounded Warriors.
Vendors expected to attend the event include Engine 7 Grill; Culinary Designs; Old Time Funnel Cakes; Ted Kamel Foods; Texas Dogwood Ninety-Nines and Kona Ice.
Representatives from the HAMM Gift Shop; Wearables Etc., Inc.; Diamond Conces-sions and Mobile Vet Center, which provides information on veterans' services, also plan to attend.
For details about the air show, visit www.wingsovertylerairshow.com