The presentation was witnessed by Dean’s wife, Linda Kay Dean, and several hundred Texas airport managers and aviation proponents, as well as presidents of aviation organizations EAA, AOPA, and NBAA attending the conference.
FAA Director Bruner recognized Steve for his “demonstrated professionalism, skill and aviation expertise in maintaining safe flying operations for more than 50 years.”
After his first solo in August 1960 from Poole’s Airport/drag strip near Gilmer in Upshur County, Steve entered Baylor University in September, 1960.
He worked his way through college at the Waco Municipal Airport first as a line boy, then airport handy man, then charter pilot, and finally as a flight instructor in Baylor’s Air Force ROTC military contract school, instructing his classmates in the ROTC Flight Indoctrination Program.
Throughout his half-century career as a military and civilian flight instructor, FAA Designated Pilot Examiner, and a tour in the A-37 as a “combat ready” fighter pilot in the USAF, Steve accrued over 15,000 flight hours.
He instructed hundreds of civilian and military de novo pilots in 50 mph Piper Cubs to supersonic T-38 Talon jets, accident-free and with never a citation for violation of rules or regulations.
In 1969, he was awarded the Air Force Commendation Award for his specialty in instructing advanced jet flying to Foreign Students from U.S. Allied countries during the Vietnam War.
He and Linda Kay founded the Flight of the Phoenix Aviation Museum in 1990, in honor of Col. Robert L. “Silver Fox” Stephens, Gilmer native who set a speed record in the “Black Bird” jet fighter.
The founding was marked by Steve setting the Aviation World Speed Record from Gilmer to Oshkosh, Wisc.
The museum’s award-winning wood hangar was completed in 1994 and serves as home to the museum and its collection.
Today Dean serves as the AOPA Airport Support Network advocate for the Fox Stephens Field/Gilmer Municipal Airport.
He continues flying airshows for the museum in the vintage WWII T-6 Texan as leader of the Flight of the Phoenix Escadrille, a military- style formation demonstration team.
The award presentation during the Texas Aviation Conference was made possible by David Fulton, director, and his staff at the Aviation Division of the Texas Department of Transportation.