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Aircraft Model: MIG-17F
Aircraft Type: Warbird Soviet Fighter
Fly During Show: Yes
Display Open To Public: No
Web Site: www.fighterjets.com/mig17.asp

The Pilot - Randy Ball

Randy Ball is a sixth generation Texan who spent his early years in rural Texas, the same as most of his ancestors, graduating from high school with a class of only 29. All of Randy’s time, however, wasn’t spent on the ‘ranch’. His father took him flying and he spent countless hours with one of his heroes, his Great Uncle Gilbert Ball, who flew 56 missions over Europe flying the B-17 Flying Fortress. Randy would ask questions and listen to his uncle’s stories by the hour. Even before college, Randy knew he wanted to fly. By the time he was 13 years old, he had already taken off and landed a plane with his father and soloed at the age of 18.

Today Randy is an airline captain and has flown over 40 different makes and models of aircraft that were built by manufacturers in nine different countries. He has performed on the North American air show circuit in front of millions of fans for over 16 years, and is today recognized as one of the premier air show pilots flying jet aerobatics. Randy started flying air shows with the CAF in WW II aircraft and has flown several aircraft from that war, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. His favorites are the North American F-100 Super Saber, and his current jet, the famous MiG-17F from the Vietnam War.

Randy flies solo aerobatics, both day shows and night shows. His demo is designed to resemble the demo of the F/A-18 Hornet or the ‘high G’ show of the F-16 Falcon. During his demo in the MiG-17F, he routinely pulls 8gs, and reaches speeds approaching 700 mph, all while only a few hundred feet off the ground. Randy has also had the honor of providing the enemy aircraft to be flown against the USAF’s F-4 Phantom II at a number of air shows around the U.S. (MiG vs. F-4), helping to tell the story of the USAF’s history over the skies of North Vietnam. Randy is the only civilian pilot ever approved by the USAF to fly with their Phantom. Randy has appeared in eighteen magazines, and on several occasions been filmed by the Discovery Channel, in particular while performing with the USAF F-4 Phantom II.

He likes to spend time with Big Brothers and Big Sisters, and the Boy Scouts, and when asked what is his favorite maneuver, he says “the vertical A/B roll”.When asked what his favorite air show is, he says “It’s the one where I can have access to the fans, especially the kids. It is the kids who make all the work worth it.They are the next generation, and the one hope I have is to inspire them in a positive way…to fly.”


Made famous by the Vietnam War, the MiG-17F was the primary enemy aircraft engaged in the skies over Vietnam by U.S. aircraft, such as the A-4,A-7, F-8, B-52, F-100, F-105 and its primary nemesis, the F-4 Phantom II. During that war and up until the F-16 entered service, it was the tightest-turning fighter in the world.When production started in the 1950s, its VK-1F engine made it one of the first production jet fighters in the world with an afterburner.

The MiG-17F could carry bombs, rockets, or extra fuel tanks under its wings. In its lower nose it carried some of the largest guns ever used for air-toair combat—two 23mm cannons and one 37mm cannon.The MiG-17F #1611 entered service with the Soviet bloc in March 1960 and wasn’t withdrawn from service until May 1990.

The MiG-17F can maintain 8g turns (8g = 8 times the force of gravity on the pilot’s body), attain a maximum speed of 715 mph (Mach 1.04) and can climb to 30,000 feet in only 3 minutes, with an initial rate of climb better than 14,000 feet per minute. The MiG-17F was a very nimble fighter that could prove deadly unless respected when engaged by pilots with superior training and tactics such as those used by the U.S. Navy and Air Force. One moment’s complacency when fighting against the MiG-17F could prove fatal. It was flown by over 20 countries, three of which still fly it. Because of its famous heritage and great maneuverability, it makes one of the best air show jets in the world, able to stay in front of the fans while still flying at great speeds.

The MiG-17F spent almost four years in restoration, and is one of only a handful of vintage jets flying the North American air show circuit. It has an authentic paint job and is the only MiG available for ground display with fully restored guns. Randy’s MiG has been seen by millions of air show fans across North America and has been featured in numerous publications, appearing on t-shirts, newspapers, posters, and more. It has been filmed on several occasions including performing as the enemy aircraft with the USAF’s F-4 Phantom* for the Discovery Channel and #1611 is now being featured in a new flight simulator program

Information courtesy of Randy Ball
Photo courtesy of Larry Titchenal

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