El Centro Airshow 2004

This airshow is held at the El Centro naval air station in southern California, only a hop and a skip north of the Mexican border.   As the front gate exhibit so graphically shows, this is the winter training base for the navy Blue Angels jet display team.   Each year a new rotation of pilots gets their training here before venturing out for a year of airshows.   Naturally enough, one of their first shows for the year is the annual El Centro airshow, which is held in March.

The presence of the Blue Angels naturally gives this show a boost, and the early starting date has airshow enthusiasts flocking to the show from San Diego and the surrounding area, starved for excitement after a winter without the roar of jets and hum of propellers.   It's certainly a worthwhile show, and although it's bigger than the Yuma airshow in nearby Arizona which is held even earlier, it's still not a large show by American standards.

However, this is a good show for photography because of the clear desert air, and also because the layout of the airfield means that the sun is at the photographer's back for most of the day, which is much better than shooting into the sun with backlit aircraft.

In 2004 there was a very pleasant show, with various aerobatic acts by small propeller driven aircraft and the appropriately painted L-39 jet "Firecat".   You can check out the highlights page to see photos of the military aircraft flying on the day, both classic warbirds like a C-121 Constellation, P-51 Mustang and an F4U Corsair doing simulated strafing and bombing runs with a miniature "wall of fire", as well as modern planes like an F-16 Fighting Falcon and an F-117 Nighthawk "stealth fighter".   Highlights of the day were the Constellation doing a very nice looking display, the F-16 flying together with the P-51 in one of the Air Force's "Heritage Flight" formation displays, and of course those Blue Angels doing what they're trained for, slightly more sloppy than they'll be later in the year, but still the world's premier jet display team!