2016 Event Review

2016 NAF El Centro Airshow
Location: NAF El Centro, CA.
Admission: FREE
Parking: FREE
Value: Excellent
Rating out of 10: 8
 
Display by the Italians
Vermont ANG

To begin their show season as always, the United States Navy Blue Angels performed at their Winter Home at Naval Air Facility El Centro, CA in front of the large crowd in Imperial Valley. After months of extensive training, the team was able to showcase their elite precision under the command of the new flight leader, Commander Ryan Bernacchi. 2016 is a big year because it commemorates the 70th Anniversary the Navy's world famous flight demonstration squadron. .

The gates opened at 9:00 am and there were many ground activities offered for all ages before the flying events took place. Many of the static aircraft included a couple modern fighters like the F/A-18 Super Hornet, A-10 Thunderbolt II, and AV-8B Harrier II. There were also a ton of helicopters for people to come up close to including the AH-1Z Viper and the many variants of the MH-60. Planes of Fame and the Commemorative Air Force were kind enough to let the show offer a vast array of static warbirds ranging from the P-51 Mustang to B-25 Mitchell. One ground attraction that you don't normally see at an airshow is the 501st Legion based out of San Diego which brings many people dressed as Star Wars characters to the event for the enjoyment of the attendees. Many of the characters included a majority of Imperial Stormtroopers, Mandalorians dressed in Blue Angels colors, the feared bounty hunter Boba Fett, and the newest villain in the galaxy Kylo Ren. .

Flying began at 11:00 am with the Opening Ceremonies and National Anthem. Jumping for the Anthem were the United States Navy Leap Frogs parachute team. During their jump the crowd got to get a rare pass by their jump plane, a Grumman C-2 Greyhound. Following the Leap Frogs jump, the show offered many great demonstrations by WWII warbirds courtesy of the CAF SoCal Wing including a dogfight between the North American P-51 Mustang and Mitsubishi A6M Zero along with a Blue Angels tribute flight with the Grumman F6F Hellcat and F8F Bearcat. Along with the CAF, other warbird highlights included John Collver who performed in his North American SNJ Texan known as the "War Dog." The Red Eagles Formation Team also performed with incredible maneuvers in their Yak-52 trainers. The show also featured some of the top aerobatic performers in the airs how industry including Vicky Benzing in her Extra 300S and Spencer Suderman in his Meteor Pitts. During intermissions, the crowd had the opportunity to watch the Metal Mullisha dirt bike group perform stunts in the static display area. As the show came closer to the headlining act, the Blue Angels, Planes of Fame offered a rare dogfight demonstration with the North American F-86 Sabre and Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-15 Fagot. Originally, tactical demonstrations with the U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet VFA-122 Team and Turkish Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon SOLOTURK were scheduled to performer. However, due to logistics, neither of them were able to perform at the show. But that didn't keep the audience from enjoying the start to the Blue Angels airs how season.

The Blue Angels demonstration officially kicked of at 2:30 pm with Fat Albert performing it's demonstration with the Lockheed Martin TC-130 Hercules. After Fat Albert landed, the Blue Angels flight team officers were introduced and rolled out their blue Boeing F/A-18 Hornets for takeoff. This was the team's first public demonstration of the 2016 season which commemorates their 70th anniversary. The crowd was pleased at the numerous stunts each pilot performed and each jet looked shiny clean to impress airs how attendees during their very special airs how season. After the show was completed, the Blue Angels pilots walked over to the crowd line to sign autographs for fans.  

Despite cancellations of the Turkish F-16 and VFA-122 F/A-18, the show ended in a high note with plenty of ground attractions and warbird demonstrations. Returning to the show to announce was no other than Mr. John Huggins who put on yet another remarkable job at explaining the most important information about show routines with respect to letting the aircraft speak for themselves in the air. Thanks to the many volunteers, staff, and service men on the base, NAF El Centro put on another successful airs how.

 

Performers included:

United States Navy Blue Angels

United States Marine Corps TC-130 Hercules “Fat Albert”

United States Navy Leap Frogs Parachute Team featuring the C-2 Greyhound

Planes of Fame Air Museum F-86 Sabre and MiG-15 Fagot Dogfight

CAF SoCal Wing P-51 Mustang and A6M Zero Dogfight

CAF So Cal Wing F6F Hellcat and F8F Bearcat Blue Angels Tribute

John Collver in his SNJ Texan “War Dog”

Red Eagles Yak-52 Formation Team

Vicky Benzing

Spencer Suderman

Metal Mullisha

Static on display included:

Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet

Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II

Boeing AV-8B Harrier II

Sikorsky MH-60R/S/T

Bell AH-1Z Viper

North American P-51 Mustang

Republic P-47 Thunderbolt

Curtiss P-40 Warhawk

Bell P-63 Kingcobra

North American T-28 Trojan

Beech T-34 Mentor

North American B-25 Mitchell

Consolidated PB4Y Catalina

Beech C-45 Expeditor

Report and photography by Geoffrey Arnwine for The Aviation Magazine

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Saab Gripen taking off at RIAT
 
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