It was a windy day as eyes searched the blue skies above.
“They're 10 miles out,” said Carolyn Verver, board president of the Historic Aviation Memorial Museum at Tyler Pounds Regional Airport.
As the roar of the engines ended, several crew members on the ground made the preparations for the pilots to exit their planes and saluted the pilots as they climbed out of their cockpits.
Capt. Garrett Dover, 29, of Bozeman, Mont., is the demonstration pilot.
As he and his partner arrived Thursday, they performed what Dover called a site survey to establish boundaries and obstacles that must be considered before performing.
Dover said he views performing alone as an opportunity.
“It really gives us the ability to take the jet to the edge of the envelope at each show,” he said.
“We'll show exactly what the F-16 can do,” he said.
Dover said he will fly from about 140 to 750 mph, which is just less than the speed of sound.
“And then I'll go from about 200 feet up to about 15,000 … in a matter of seconds,” he said.
The stress of the performance will not only fall on Dover's plane, but his body as well.
“The whole time, I'll be pulling up to nine Gs, or nine times my body weight, so I get a pretty good workout,” he said.
But for Dover, it's just a part of the experience he has dreamed of since childhood.
“When I was 6 or 7 years old, I went to an air show,” Dover said. “I just got completely addicted to aviation. Then I set a goal to become a pilot.”
Dover said his family has been there for him every step of the way.
“My family has been very supportive, and it's with the military which is something different,” Dover said. “They really like this job because they can travel to air shows and check out the country.”
Dover has flown F-16s for four years and said it took months of training.
“I never got to fly until I got to the Air Force Academy,” Dover said. “It wasn't until after I graduated from there that I started flying. Everybody who flies for the Air Force goes through pilot training. You start off on a basic trainer and work your way up through a couple of different trainers before you get to whatever jet it is that you're going to fly. That's a six-month program.”
Dover said his training prepared him for a five-month combat tour in Afghanistan.
“That was a really rewarding part of my career,” he said.
He said his main combat objective was to provide close air support for ground forces.
The duty included observing battlefield activity and searching for improvised explosive devices, he said.
“Or, if (ground troops) get in trouble, they basically have a 911 line to whatever jet is closest to them,” he said. “Then we can go take care of those guys.”
Dover said air shows are a great opportunity to speak with young men and women who are considering military life. But they are only one of the groups Dover said he likes to talk to.
“First of all, it's the little kids like me. It's great to come back to air shows and see little kids who look upwards in awe,” Dover said. “You got kids who are getting ready to graduate from high school, and also I like to talk to veterans and older folks who like to see the aircraft.”
Dover said there is no shortage of fans in the Lone Star State — a place he especially enjoys performing because of the abundance of patriots.
When he returns to the blue skies Sunday, he will get his chance.