Gilmer man’s love of vintage planes propels air show

Flight of the Phoenix

TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Many people think there’s nothing more patriotic than a flying World War II aircraft, and a Gilmer man does his best to give people just that. And he coordinates the T6 Texan Air show which features at least two vintage war birds trailing smoke and thrilling crowds.

Retired from the Air Force, Steve Dean has been a pilot for years.

He’s pretty much taken himself out of the pilot’s seat because of a bad knee, but he’s still very involved in flight and helps present air shows featuring his buddies flying T6 Texans.

“T6 is the ultimate war bird. From World War II it was an advanced trainer back in the beginning of World War II. It had a certain amount of difficulty built in so it was a suitable trainer to prepare the young pilots for all the different fighters of World War II,” Dean explained.

And on July 3, two T6’s took to the skies over Gilmer for an Independence Day celebration.

“People enjoy seeing those war birds. They are a patriotic symbol. Folks get the chills on their back. It makes it okay to be patriotic when you’re out there watching those airplanes,” Dean smiled.

ICYMI: Vintage planes fly over Gilmer during T6 Texan Air Show

Dean used to fly alongside Carl Best and Steve Afeman, but is playing the role of emcee on the ground now.

“So we’ll just see how good those guys are tonight,” Dean said at the flyover.

“Do you think in some ways it’s almost better to see people’s reactions on the ground?” I asked Dean.

“Oh it’s wonderful. I love it, I mean I was just so thrilled to hear, oh, Steve, what a great air show! It was so great and we just loved it,” he smiled.

Oh, and the smoke coming off the planes as they fly over lasts about thirteen minutes; the length of the show, and it’s:

“Mineral oil, and you pump it onto the exhaust pipe, and it vaporizes and makes the smoke as you go along,” Dean said.

Steve says the T6 is a loud plane, but the crowd seems to like it that way.

“Just keep your eyes open for the next air show because you’ll really enjoy it,” Dean added.

Whether on the ground or in the air, you can bet Steve Dean of Gilmer will be involved with T6 air shows and remain a patriot with his head in the clouds.

Veterans Day they’ll do a fly over at the Dallas parade, and plan on something with the Wounded Warriors in Smith County this fall.

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