Imperial Valley Press
Blue Angels and Viper pilots ready for the 2023 NAFEC Air Show
NAF EL CENTRO – The majestic Blue Angels aircrafts lined up at the Naval Air Facility of El Centro (NAFEC), impressively standing next to their proud pilots, ready to take off and showcase maneuvers and fleet at the upcoming 2023 NAFEC Air Show happening on Saturday, March 11.
Captain Jackson Streiff, a native of Omaha, Nebraska, will operate a favorite among the audience, “Fat Albert” a C130J Super Hercules aircraft, whose nickname is due to the size of the aircraft and the beloved TV show from the 1970s.
“It’s an incredible machine for sure,” Streiff said.
Since he joined the Blue Angels, Streiff has flown “Fat Albert” since he has previous experience operating large aircrafts.
“It was pretty normal for me to hop in the seat and feel right at home,” Streiff said. This air show will mark Streiff ’s third year with the Blue Angels.
Streiff said he considers the Imperial Valley is a great place to receive solid training.
“It’s always a great pleasure to come here and work,” Streiff said.
Among new additions to the air show, Streiff said this is the first year for newer officers of Blue Angels to showcase for the public.
“It’s a big deal for them, and it’s a real testament to the training that they get out here and how much they start from square one, and then put on this beautiful airshow over three months,” Streiff said.
The seasoned pilot said he considers that Imperial Valley attendees will not be disappointed with this year’s Air Show, being the second one held after a hiatus from the pandemic.
Apart from inspiring the region’s younger generation to join the Blue Angels, for Streiff, this airshow aims to encourage people to pursue their passions.
“Set a goal that you’re going to try to pursue and have the grit
to see whatever goal you have to the end so you can accomplish whatever your dreams are,” Streiff said.
What started as a childhood motivation is now a reality for Aviation Maintenance Administrator Diego Solorzano, a native of Brawley, who joined the Blue Angels five months ago.
After joining the military, he applied for the Blue Angels until being selected.
“It was a huge motivation to see them in my backyard in the Imperial Valley,” Solorzano said. “If you want to be there again next year; go try out again and keep doing it until you make it.”
“That was my mindset: have fun, make everything come full circle,” he said. “Seeing them since I was a little kid and then to be part of them now.... Hopefully that spreads the message that you can do whatever you want, no matter what path you choose to go.
The U.S. Air Force’s F-16 Viper Demo Team will be joining the Navy’s Blue Angels for some Air Show demonstrations.
Captain Aimee Fiedler, whose call sign is “Rebel,” is in her second year as the pilot and commander.
“I never grew up thinking I can’t do something because of my gender,” Fiedler said. “I didn’t have anybody in my life telling me that was a thing holding me back,” she said.
What inspired Fiedler, a native of Texas, to be an aviator were her aspirations of being an astronaut.
“Once I started flying, I realized that was what I wanted to do with my career,” Fiedler said.
Fiedler acknowledged there was a time women were not allowed to be in a fighter jet or a combat role and said that has changed.
“I see women pilots every day. I’ve worked with women pilots throughout my entire career,” she said.
“We’re almost 30 years behind in our perception whereas the Air Force and military are 30 years ahead because no one’s holding us back, no one’s telling us no, as long as we can meet the mission, we’re able to be there,” Fiedler said.
“As the demo pilot, I’m proud to represent both the amazing men and women that I work with,” Fiedler said.
For Fielder, the Air Show is an opportunity to see what the Imperial Valley community is supporting.
“They’re really the backbone of what’s happening in the military and they don’t always get the opportunity to see that,” Fiedler said.
“Coming out here gives them the opportunity to see how big their town is in the grand scheme when it comes to naval air power, air force, air power; they are the firsthand contributors, and it’s important for them to get to come out here and see that,” she said.
As previously reported by this newspaper on March 8, NAFEC invites the Imperial Valley to come to visit the base for the 52nd annual Air Show, Saturday, March 11, with gates opening at 8:30 a.m. General admission and all parking are free.
This year, the base is celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Women Flying in the Navy with many special guests in attendance, according to a NAFEC press release.
Additionally, the installation is planning a classic car show, a Naturalization Ceremony for several uniformed members, Mariachi Amanecer Imperial Valley band, the U.S. Navy’s rock band “The Destroyers,” as well as the headlining U.S. Navy’s Flight Demonstration Team The Blue Angels, and flying acts provided by the U.S. Air Force and commemorative warbirds, according to the release.
The public is encouraged to visit the website www.elecentroairshow.com for the latest information.