BZ's 2008 El Centro Airshow

Photo Gallery

El Centro NAF is the winter home of the Blue Angels, and it is here that they kicked off their 2008 season!

The weather that day was very warm, with clear blue skies. Being out in the California desert (close to the Mexican border), the air was bone dry - no vapor action to spice things up. Still, it was a wonderful opportunity to get close to the Blues, and to get some shots not seen at other venues.

Pics taken using a Nikon D50, with a 70-300mm Nikkor VR lens, and the 18-55mm kit lens. Hope you like them!

A F-18E/F Super Hornet was scheduled to fly that day, but had to cancel (due to FAA paperwork issues?).

The Marine Corps AV-8 Harrier, all covered up with protective bits (against sand and showgoers I'd imagine).

An artsy angle showing the distintive droop of the harrier's wings.

Another Super Hornet, partially shaded by what looks like temporary shelter.

The C-17 Globemaster III was clearly the largest aircraft on display there.

A German (Luftwaffe) Panavia Tornado was also on display. Too bad they didn't fly it though!

They also had a couple of A-10 Thunderbolts (more commonly called Warthogs or Hogs) on display. Static only also.

This E-2 Hawkeye flew the colors of the USS Ronald Reagan - one of the newer Nimitz class carriers.

The RAF (British) paratroopers started the show off - here making some heart shaped smoke trails.

There's some closer shots of them later, as they jumped twice in one day!

Bill Cornick in his Pitts S-2C

John Collver in the AT-6

Nice round sounds from the old warbird.

Thunder Delphins in their L-29s.

Steve Stavrakakis in the IAR-823

The IAR-823 is a Romanian military trainer aircraft, painted in USAF Vietnam era camouflage.

Spencer Suderman in his Pitts S-2B, doing his signature inverted Flat spin!

This is the closest shot I have of him. The take off/landings, and passes were a bit far from the audience.

Some shots unique to El Centro (I believe). Most shows have the blues lined up facing the audience.

John Collver (AT-6 fame) mixing it up with the audience.

Julie Reesman from the Mig-17 Red Bull team. (I'm just reading her T-shirt!).

Speaking of which, Bill Reesman flew the RedBull Mig-17F, and did some nice low passes.

Even with afterburners on, it's really not that loud.

The Red Bull Mig is a beaut, and looked great in the sun.

Julie Clark in the T-34 'Chevron Mentor'.

Accompanying her routine was some firework displays.

Really added some pop to it!

A pair of AV-8B Harriers from USMC VMA-231 made a quick pass and then landed.

The firetruck sprayed some water around in order to increase the humidity, to make the Harrier's thrust more efficient for the vertical landing demonstration.

A second pair of Harriers make their pass, and the first one did a normal landing.

The trailing AV-8B slowed to a hover...

...then did a vertical landing. The black smoke from the nozzles pointing downwards can be seen in this shot.

In between the paved tarmac/runways, was loose dirt/sand. I imagine if it rained there, it would be quite muddy!

The British Falcon Parachute demo team jumps out of a perfectly good C-130.

They are known for a non-touching vertical stack.

For once, I'm in optimal position for the shot!

Their target area was right in front of me. :-)

The Falcons were very professional, and certainly a credit to the RAF.
These guys look like seasoned veterans with lots of jumps under their belts.

Jolly Good Show!

I almost wore my Hawaiian shirt!

The paratroopers loaded back in their C-130, and took off for points unknown.

The ground crew prepping the F-18s for the show.

Doesn't look too crowded now, but the fence line got mobbed when the Blues ground act started.

The Fat Albert show getting started.

One of the Blue's staff photographers. Looks like he's got a nice Nikon...

Was looking forward to the JATO demo... which didn't happen. Looking closely at the C-130, the JATO pods are not even attached. Maybe it's a cost cutting measure!

Fat Albert did some nice passes.

Here's Fat Alber lining up for a head on pass.

I liked this one - where he's in-line with the Blues F-18s.

A handsome angle for the C-130. I think he's going full throttle.


Doing that steep approach landing thing.

Very favorable lighting at El Centro. Sun's to the back - unlike most other airshows!

On to the main event!

I really love the Blue's ground show. Very measured, efficient, and precise!

I read that the Blues don't use G-suits when flying their routine. Considering what they do, that's pretty amazing!

Everyone getting strapped in their ride.

Tall people have a better view...

Getting ready for engine start.

Engines warming up!

#1 starts to roll out...

Taxiing past the assembled ground crew.

I think they hit their smoke momentarily at the start of the takeoff run. Very dramatic that way!

The first four ships take to the air!

Gear up!

Going for altitude.

Came back around for a 4 ship flyby.

The solos start their takeoff run.

The #5 pitches up and does a rollover, while #6 stays lower to the ground.

Had to crop it a bit to re-center the action. Timing was ok, but framing a bit off.

The Blues team keeping tabs on the show.

The lead solo starting a minimum radius turn with afterburners.

He was pretty close overhead...

Composition is good, but a bit slow on the trigger :-)

When they start on the echelon roll (or something to that effect), it's time to start looking for the sneak pass!

And there he is!

Think he was going more than 600mph...

No vapor action though, so these still shots are very deceptive.

I had a hard time tracking him properly, he was going so fast. (not included are 2 shots of just the rear thirds of the plane!)

Hey, I got one! But then, I should have tracked the #5, not the #6...oh well.

Loved these overhead passes. Though it's hard to get them all in the frame.

This would look better if I cropped it a bit (centering the action). Notice the #6 'paint' job is fading fast!

I think this is called the high alpha pass.

The F-18s look like something from Buck Rodgers!

The opposing solos rejoining the formation of 4.

This is a new routine they added towards the end of the show.

Final pass, and break for the landing.

Even though they've landed, the show's not over!

A Thank You shake.

Measured and precise.

Ok, that's the end of the show!

They're moving the planes off the flightline.

But friends and family of the blues get to go closer for a photo op with the #1 plane.

Here's the #1 pilot CDR Kevin Mannix signing an autograph.

This is the #2 pilot, LCDR Paul Brantuas.

The #3 pilot, LT Mark Swinger.

MAJ Clint C. Harris is the #4 pilot.

The #5 lead solo pilot is LCDR Craig R. Olson.

The #6 opposing solo is MAJ Nathan R. Miller.

LT Frank Weisser was the narrator for the Blues show

LT Daniel E. McShane was the events coordinator for the Blues.

Capt Brendan Burks was the C-130 pilot that day.

I guess they peeled off what's left of the #6 tape.

Funny thing is they only gassed up the 2 solos. Guess they used up more fuel than the others!

Not sure what he's doing, but I liked this shot!

Close up of a Desert Patrol Vehicle. Used to be called a FAV (Fast Attack Vehicle).

A Marine Corps CH-46 Sea Knight.

A hog in the late afternoon light.

Artsy shot of a AH-1W Super Cobra.

The 2 snakes they had there looked pretty beat up though. However, they still looked very sleek and deadly!

The C-17 getting ready to leave town.

It was pretty loud and intense when the pilot put her in reverse and blew dust and debris towards the onlookers!

View of the C-17 pilot.

The snake buttoned up for a possible sandstorm!

At the entrace to El Centro NAF were some examples of the different types the Blues have flown over the years. An A-4 and F-4 can be seen in this shot.

The F-18 is of course, the current type used by the Blues.

That's the show folks! Hope you liked it. Sorry for jamming it all on one page - I promise I'll break it up to multiple pages - later :-)

If you liked these, you might want to check out some other pics I took...
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