A Navy veteran’s work restoring jets at a hangar in East Texas has caught the attention of the History Channel, which will feature him in its annual Salute to Service special later this year.
Cast members and crew from the History Channel were at the hangar at the East Texas Regional Airport last Wednesday and Thursday to interview and film retired Navy Lt. Cmdr. Dan Filer of Alto for the special set to air on Veterans Day.
Filer, who spent 18 years in the Navy and owns Unknown Aircraft Co., is set to be featured on the show in a segment about his work restoring MiG-23 jets to get them back in flying condition. The Salute to Service special honors veterans and service members and contributions by people who shine a light on the military and related organizations, according to the network.
During his time in the service, Filer said he flew attack planes from aircraft carriers, including 47 combat attack missions in the first Gulf War. He later began acquiring Soviet jets, mostly MiG-23s, which are capable of flying more than twice the speed of sound at Mach 2.35. Over time, he acquired close to 20 jets and has since donated several to museums, he said.
Two MiG-23s were moved to the new and larger East Texas hangar late this past year. He previously said he chose the airport near Longview because of its longer runway “that can accommodate an aircraft like the ones I operate, and the airport was already in the process of dividing up lots for future hangars.”
“This hangar was done in November, and we trucked two of the MiG-23s from West Texas. The transport actually made news around the world — the Russian newspaper, Chinese newspaper,” Filer said. “Yeah, it’s crazy, moving them went worldwide.”
Filer, who owns the planes, teamed up with friend and veteran of the former Soviet Union Dobrin Dobrev, who specializes in MiG-23 engines.
“When I moved to the states years ago, Dan called me up and said, ‘I need your help.’ So, here I am,” Dobrev said.
Filer said restoring the jets is a long but enjoyable process.
“Dobrin and I have spent the last couple days working on the engine, and we are slowly bringing it up to service again,” Filer said. “We get together about three to four times a year, so hopefully maybe another year, year and half. It’s a slow process, but we’re having fun with it.”
Filer acknowledged the pair’s backgrounds make them an unlikely duo.
“He’s a veteran on one side of the former Soviet Union, and I’m on this side, and now we’re together,” Filer said. “We’re on the same side working together to bring the airplanes back to flying condition.”
Filer said he couldn’t restore the jets without Dobrev, whom he called invaluable.
On Wednesday, the crew from the History Channel shot footage of volunteers stripping down the jet in Filer’s hangar. As they did, he joked that the interest in his hobby after the military might have been piqued by the release of a recent film.
“Apparently people like aviation, and with ‘Top Gun’ coming out, it was kind of good timing,” he said.
On Thursday, there was a possibility the jet would be taking flight.
Filer said he is proud of the work he and Dobrev are doing and is excited to share it with the community with the airing of the show.
“It feels good. I’m pretty proud. We’d like to bring something to the community that (they) may not have seen before. This is the only private collection of flying MiG-23s in the world,” he said. “We are happy to bring it to the local community and hopefully do some air shows soon.”