Budget cuts don't hamper NAF El Centro air show for all
The Blue Angels solo jets perform a maneuver Saturday afternoon at the Imperial Valley 2013 Naval Air Facility El Centro Air Show in Seeley. (STEVEN ESPERANZA PHOTO / March 17, 2013)
But some noticed a few changes from the past few years due to budget tightening.
There seemed to be fewer vendors and fewer displays, and those on display weren’t all military, said Jim Ballard, who lives at the RV park at the Naval facility. He and his wife, Pat, have been going to the air show for six or seven years, and he saw a number of planes that looked odd to have at the air show.
This year was also the first time he’d seen a group charging to tour planes at the air show, he said.
Overall it’s good to get to speak with the people who own and operate the planes, as well as to see them on display, said Pat. The air show overall is “absolutely wonderful.”
While a few current military planes were on display, a number of private plane owners showed off their vintage military aircrafts in the static display area, including Spike McLane with the Commemorative Air Force museum. He oversees the B-25 plane on display, which did have a sign asking for donations to tour the cockpit.
Those donations cover the costs of fuel and maintenance for the aircrafts, he said. The B-25 burns about 150 gallons per hour, and with airline fuel at about $6 a gallon, it adds up quickly.
His group tours air shows around the country, and this year is set to go to states like Minnesota and Ohio. For privately owned war birds, problems like sequestration, which has grounded a number of teams, including the Air Forces Thunderbirds, is probably going to be a good thing, he said.
“Everybody wants to see a show,” he said. “If the military can’t do the shows, the private groups will.”
Sequestration, a series of automatic, across-the-board cuts to government agencies, totaling more than $1 trillion through a 10-year period, did even play a short role in the show.
One of the early acts in the show ended with jokes about sequestration during a special performance among announcer Jon “Huggy” Huggins and pilots Bill Cornick in his Big Bad Green plane and another pilot in a yellow plane. The yellow plane’s pilot surprised the crowd by interrupting Cornick in his show, getting in Cornick’s way as he was finishing off his performance. Even as pieces fell off the yellow plane because of a close call with Cornick, the yellow plane’s pilot told Huggins he wanted to help perform because he heard about the sequestration cuts.
After stumbling around in a plane and losing “paperwork” and pieces of his plane while in mid-air, he landed and drove toward the announcer, where Huggins told the crowd that it was actually Kent Pietsch in the yellow Jelly Belly plane playing around.
While there have been some changes in the line-up since sequestration went into effect, a number of people in the crowd didn’t notice.
Iliana Rascon of Imperial arrived in time to see the Blue Angels, the performance she really headed out for, she said. She’s not sure if sequestration had an impact on the show itself, but there were still a lot of people who came out to see the show. And the Blue Angels are always a good bet to watch.
“They always put on a good show, flying around,” she said.
Digital Media News Editor Elizabeth Varin can be reached at email@example.com or 760-337-3441.