BY Victor Texcucano
Jan Collmer, 78, flies a very agile German-made Extra 300L with zeal.
Collmer, who has been flying for nearly 60 years — beginning in 1954 in the U.S. Navy — has been flying in air shows for about 35 years and offers rides to those who like adventure.
He said he has offered more than 3,000 riders the opportunity to experience his aircraft’s acrobatics.
He said, however, that some people get nervous at the thought of the acrobatics.
“(I tell them) ‘Well, take Southwest Airlines,’” he said. “If you go with me, we’re doing acrobatics. A little bit at least.”
The Extra 300L is capable of almost anything you can think of, including loops, rolls, tumbles, falls and all types of “crazy tricks,” he said.
“The limitation is not the airplane, the limitation is the pilot,” he said. “It’s a sick sack filler right here. ... It’s so fast.”
Collmer’s 300L was one of several airplanes on display at Tyler Pounds Regional Airport’s Historic Aviation Memorial Museum.
The aircraft were on static display Saturday morning and afternoon, before they flew out to the ninth annual Thunder Over Cedar Creek Lake Air Show near Mabank.
Several of the aircraft participating at the air show flew out of Tyler Pounds, including HAMM life member Randy Ball, who flew his MiG-17, Carolyn Verver, HAMM board president, said.
The planes stage at Tyler Pounds, since it is one of the nearest airports to Cedar Creek, she said.
HAMM’s goal is to share these planes with the public before they perform at the air show.
“We try to get these planes to come out early so we can stage them and show them,” she said.
Ms. Verver said come air show time, people can watch the planes depart from inside the museum.
“We have good facilities (at Tyler Pounds) and good airspace to do something like this, unlike the crowded metropolitan areas,” she said. “Because they could just as easily stage out of Dallas.”
Several of the aircraft in the air show were historical aircraft used in wartime, such as the Word War II-era North American Aviation T-6 Texans, flown by Carl Best and Steve Dean.
The T-6, Dean said, is a WWII-era training plane, most of which were built in Texas before and during the war.
“It has built-in difficulty. In other words, it’s hard to fly,” he said. “It’s made to be hard to fly. Most airplanes, when they’re built, they want it to be easy, but this one was going to be a trainer — so they wanted it to have a certain level of difficulty, so when a guy graduated (he could fly anything.)”
Dean’s plane, which he has flown for 18 years, is a retired aircraft from the South African Air Force.
The plane was popular with the South African Air Force, and they were the last air force to keep the T-6 in service, he said. They were retired in 1995.
Dean said flying is something he has enjoyed his whole life, ever since he started in 1959.
“It’s euphoria. You look down and you see God’s creation, like he intended it to be, or what you think he intended it to be, before man’s scarred it,” he said. “You don’t see the all the scars; you just see the finished picture. It’s really pretty.”
Dean flies with a group out of Flight of the Phoenix Aviation Museum in Gilmer.
He said their mission is to inspire young people in patriotism, citizenship, respect for the U.S. Constitution and helping others.
That was something echoed by Beth Jenkins, who flew in a Marine version of a WWII-era B-25 bomber for the Double Dog Squadron of the Commemorative Air Force, based out of Georgetown.
Jenkins, who has been flying since 1983, said flying historic planes, especially at air shows, helps preserve American history.
“We’re here to keep history alive. For what our fathers and forefathers did for the freedoms we have here today,” she said. “This is living history.”