Ffor over 20 years, jet demonstration pilot Randy Ball has hosted his aircraft at the Tyler Pounds Regional Airport. This Friday, he will have a rare opportunity to showcase his jets for Tyler and East Texas at the inaugural Rose City Airfest to benefit CampV.
Ball recalled taking part in a Tyler air show in 2011, and after a decade, he can’t wait to return.
“I’m delighted to let Tyler see all the planes come into town, see both Russian jets fly and US Air Force F-16s fly,” he said. “We have a very good training. I think it’s going to be a phenomenal night. (It’s gonna) sound like Friday night football.
He flies jets for approximately 2.5 million people at air shows each year in North America. The pilot, with over 30 years of experience, loves teaching children about aircraft and getting them excited about flying.
The Rose City Airfest will be held at the Historic Aviation Memorial Museum at Tyler Pounds Regional Airport. The event starts at 10 a.m. on Friday and more than 20 aerial performances, including Ball’s Russian MiG17, will kick off at 6:30 p.m.
“Normally, we fly the planes to Tyler, we work on it and we take them away immediately. It’s a chance for us to fly for Tyler, ”Ball said. “It’s pretty cool for me too.”
Ball, who has flown more than 42 different types of aircraft, said the Historic Aviation Memorial Museum recruited his team to move to Tyler in 2000. Since then, the airport has become his home.
“They showed me the airport and I met the mayor and I met members of the city council. I met the tower manager and the airport manager etc. Later that year we ended up moving our jets to the Tyler Pounds (regional) airport and we’ve been there for 21 years now, ”Ball said. “It’s home now. We may be in Canada for an air show, Florida the next air show, Mexico an air show, Connecticut, Michigan and back, but home for us now is Tyler.
Ball is expected to be one of the last performers and he will demonstrate a full aerobatic routine in his Russian MiG-17, a highly subsonic fighter plane made in the USSR in 1952, with lots of afterburning flames at dusk. He explained that the jet is the plane the United States flew against during the Vietnam War.
“It’s a tight-turn plane and therefore it allows me to go fast near the speed of sound, fly just over the ground, and make incredibly tight turns around Tyler’s airport. “, did he declare.
Proceeds from the air show will support veterans of East Texas and CampV, a 20-acre campus in Tyler at 3212 W. Front St. CampV, also known as Community Assisting Military Personnel and Veterans, offers resources and assistance for veterans, active service members, reserves and their families.
Ball said he was happy to see the funding go to CampV while teaching and entertaining children about aviation.
“Almost everyone I work with is veteran. It is so unique for our community to have an organization like CampV. Most don’t, ”Ball said. “We are very lucky to have this kind of organization in town, and they continue to grow, build and develop their camp.
The time Ball spent inside an airplane dates back to when he was a newborn in hospital for two weeks, and his father flew in a small plane to show off the last grandchild.
His father later taught him to fly when he was 12 or 13, and he got his pilot’s license. He rose through the ranks to also become an airline pilot.
In September 2019, he had his 1,400th performance, nearly three times more than any other jet fighting artist in U.S. history, Ball said.
Several years ago, the airline noticed the number of air shows Ball attended and officials believed showing at air shows would suit him better.
“I fly passengers most weeks, but if I have a series of air shows I get off the airline and just go do the air shows,” he said, adding that before COVID -19, his team had left about 22-23 weekends a year of performance across North America.
Ball said more people come to air shows than National Football League or National Basketball Association games. He called it a great family time for the kids to see and climb airplanes.
“As a young kid you go to an air show and look up and see planes doing things you don’t normally see, like flying upside down and doing ballet in the sky. I was hypnotized, and I’m still hypnotized, ”he said.
Ball is eager to speak to the young participants to show them career opportunities in aviation, adding that it is possibly the best salary he can ever get.
“I was that kid. I’m still that kid I guess you could tell. You never know what kind of influence you can have on a young man or woman at an air show. You could easily talk about keeping the right grades and all that stuff, ”Ball said. “It’s another to watch a show and see the story of the flight – see it, smell it, touch it and hear it. It just brings history to life. You can study about it at school and in any books you want. But to see it in person, hear it and watch it… that’s when you’re really inspired to, hopefully, grow up and do great things on your own.
Ball noted that his crew chief Erin Kelley, originally from Van, travels the United States and North America with him as a mechanic. She spent 16 years working on jets in the Navy, and now on weekends she travels with Ball for air shows. She helps educate children and also serves as a role model.
He added that the air show would give people the chance to see special planes in person rather than on television. He also encouraged parents to bring earplugs for the children.
“This opportunity has not arisen in East Texas for 10 years. So who knows how long it will take for the next opportunity, ”Ball said. “I hope a big chunk of Tyler comes out and brings his kids and really feast on July 4th weekend in Tyler, TX.”
Tickets are available on rosecityairfest.com at $ 25 for an adult. Those who purchase an adult ticket before June 30 will receive a free child ticket, which includes ages 12 and under. After June 30, the purchase of a children’s ticket becomes $ 5.