Jet aerobatics pilot Randy Ball was just 11 days old when he took his first flight.
His father was a private pilot and his mother an understanding woman.
“I was two weeks out of the hospital when I flew for the first time, and I've been flying ever since,” he said.
Ball, a sixth-generation Texan, comes from a family rooted primarily in farming.
He grew up flying with his father but credits his great-uncle Gilbert — a veteran pilot who flew 56 missions over Europe in a B-17 Flying Fortress — with seeding his passion for flying.
Countless hours of late-night storytelling did not fall on deaf ears, it seems.
Ball was flying by age 12 and making solo excursions by 18.
Ball said he wanted to follow in his uncle's footsteps and enter the Air Force, but the timing was wrong and things didn't work out according to plan.
However, he didn't ground his dream of flying.
“I started flying the air show circuit 25 years ago,” he said. “I am currently the only civilian jet pilot flying in the U.S.”
He commutes to Washington four days a week to work as an airline captain.
When he's not flying for work, he's flying for fun — averaging between 16 and 20 shows annually in 14 states.
Ball's expertise in the cockpit attracts a lot of attention.
He's been featured on the Discovery Channel and appeared in dozens of newspapers, magazines and television reports.
A typical show features Ball traveling at speeds averaging 700 mph, stunning crowds as he flies within a few hundred feet off the ground.
He visited Tyler several years ago and was intrigued with local affection for aviation and history.
His wife wanted to live near a lake, but Ball needed to be close to work at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.
They started scoping out possibilities for a new home in East Texas and honed in on Cedar Creek Lake.
He met with Tyler aviation officials to weigh the feasibility of housing his beloved Russian MiG-17F on the grounds of Tyler Pounds Regional Airport.
Historically, the MiG-17F served as enemy fighter aircraft in the Vietnam War.
Ball's particular plane, “Check Six,” took four years to restore and is recognized as being among only a few similar vintage jets flying in the air show circuit.
He performs before thousands of spectators annually across the United States.
After moving to East Texas, he launched Thunder Over Cedar Creek Air Show as a benefit for military veterans.
Ball performed solo in the show for the first two years, and by year three, he had company.
Performers staged out of Tyler, but there was no local performance planned until now.
Today, about 20 planes that participate in that show are appearing in first Wings Over Tyler Air Show.
“Everyone flying in there is friends of mine,” he said “They are some of the biggest names in the air show business.”
Ball said the caliber of performers is rare for a new show.
Generally it takes a few years for communities to demonstrate their ability to pull things off, he said.
“I was always game for it (air show),” Ball said. “It took someone to get it started.”