Imperial Valley Press
Blue Angels Air Show origins
On Friday, March 3, 2023, the famous California Mid-Winter Fair started along a variety of attractions, many events and shows that will take place during the 10 days that the Fair will be available to the people of the Imperial Valley.
The California Mid-Winter Fair has a variety of rides to offer, food stands, shows that include mariachi performances, local school marching bands, and also, new this year, an introduction to the pilots of the amazing Naval Air Facility Blue Angels Air Show. The Air Show takes place at Naval Air Facility El Centro, and though they are completely separate events, it usually occurs during one of the same weekends as the California Mid-Winter fair.
This Air Show is one of the first and most important events of the year for the Imperial Valley. The Air Show gives local residents the opportunity to appreciate the NAF “Pre-Flight” experience, along with food, music and other attractions that will make the event more enjoyable and amazing to watch. Some of the purposes of the Air Show are to keep the community aware of the military services available, modern aircraft and weapons advancements, and recruiting events by the Naval Station. The main purpose is “to showcase the capabilities of the Naval Aviation Enterprise, strengthen community partnerships and relations, and to thank the residents of the Imperial valley for all their support for the base,” as Kristopher Haugh, NAF EC Public Affairs Officer, put it.
The Blue Angels Air Show has a history behind it. The Blue Angels are a flight demonstration team by the U.S. Navy that started in the 1940s. These flight teams originate from a former French Navy flight team that used to perform a similar show like the Blue Angels. These air shows are performed all over the United States with over 70 shows, some of which take place in Canada. Approximately 11 million people attend to these air shows every year. In addition, the Blue Angel members from the Naval Air Facilities visit more than 60,000 people from hospitals, schools and multiple community centers all over the United States.
The Naval Air Facility in El Centro was established in May 1946. This Naval Air Station was originally a Marine Corps Air Station. This facility had multiple names over the decades: Naval Air Facility, Naval Air Station, National Parachute Testing Center, and Naval Auxiliary Landing Center, among other names.
Since the 1940s until 1980s, NAF EC has had the mission to use its area as an experimental center for aeronautical testing, design, and evaluation. In 1947, the Parachute Testing Center from Lakehurst, New Jersey migrated to El Centro. In 1951, the “Joint Parachute Facility” was established, and worked in association with the Air Force Test Group and the Naval Parachute Unit.
The Air Force established its facilities in El Centro for around 20 years. In the late 1950s, ejection seats designed for high-speed jet pilots were tested in El Centro as part of the Mercury Space parachute program. This was a precursor to the testing for the relaunch of the Apollo.
In 1964, the U.S. Naval Aerospace division were relocated and amalgamated with the Naval Air Facility and National Parachute testing Center.
Today, the Naval Air Facility El Centro is an outstanding training center for active and reserve Navy’s operating forces. The squadron that call NAF El Centro home are trained to become experts in landings, air combat, bombing and gunnery.
Once the NAF was officially established, they became an important part of springtime events in the Imperial Valley, muh like the California Mid-Winter Fair.
This Saturday March 11, the Naval Air Facility in El Centro will have their 52nd Blue Angels Air Show.
The aforementioned first-time collaboration between the Fair and the
Air Show will consist of a “Blue Angels Meet & Greet” today, Thursday, March 9, at the Palm Stage of the California Mid-Winter Fair, from 7 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. The Angels and members of the NAF El Centro Air Show will be there to present themselves to the public and get them ready for the air on Saturday.
The Air Show event will also serve as the Celebration of the 50th anniversary of Women pilots in the Navy.
Also, during this event there will be a car show, performances by mariachis Acero and Amanecer, and the U.S. Navy rock band “The Destroyers.” There will be a variety of flight demonstrations and the Blue Angels provided for the public by the U.S. Navy, as well as demonstrations by the U.S. Air Force F-16 Viper Demonstration Team.
According to the Air Show Director Marc Willis, “The layout of the Airshow has been redesigned to give the guests a more entertaining venue. From the very main entrance of the airfield there will be action by creating more opportunities of viewing and augmenting the experience and the interaction with the performers.”
In addition to the excitement surrounding the wonderment that will be the 52nd annual Air Show, the Imperial Valley community is very excited for everything that the California Mid-Winter Fair has to offer, from all the delicious foods, music, fairgrounds entertainment, rides and the great atmospheres of these unique experiences which are offered once a year.
Imperial Valley resident A. Ricardo Heredia is a middle school teacher in Yuma, Arizona, a master’s degree student at CETYS University and a local musician. He is a history major and researcher in European and Greek mythology. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.