EL CENTRO – The Blue Angels arrived at the Naval Air Facility (NAF) near El Centro Thursday, January 23, at approximately 1200 hours to a nearly perfect, sunny day.
The six Blue Angels came to NAF from Pensacola, Florida to train and begin their 2014 Air Show season.
This year’s NAF El Centro Annual Air Show is Saturday, March 15 and this will be the first Air Show of the season.
The supporting staff for the Blue Angels and Fat Albert, the C-130 that is part of the show, arrived earlier to prepare for the Blue Angels.
Lt. John Hiltz, pilot of jet No. 2, commented on arriving at NAF El Centro.
“You’re not going to find 6 pilots more excited to fly after being sequestered last year,” said Hiltz. “We are very excited to get out here and sharpen our skills again. This is the perfect environment for to do so with the great weather and a community that embraces us. We are thrilled to be part of the community again. This is my 3rd year on the team. The pilots are all the same from last year. We had to extend a year. This is a perishable skill and if all of the experienced guys had left, there wouldn’t have been any of that corporate knowledge passed down from one team to the next. It was important that we stuck around to do so.”
“During the sequester we rewrote our mission statement,” said Hiltz. “We think that is something that the Blue Angels have to focus on as we move forward into the future. The mission of the United Sates Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron is to create a culture of excellence and service to country by performing flight demonstrations and community outreach. This embraces everything that we do and are able to move into this season with a renewed vigor and focus on that mission.”
The Blue Angels are using older jets to perform in. At close proximity, they look like they are in perfect shape.
“Our maintenance team is the best in the Navy,” said Hiltz. “These are the oldest F-18’s in the Navy and the guys that maintain them are top notch. They take so much pride in keeping these jets ready. They look great, but you wouldn’t be able to tell these are 24 years old. We get them when they’ve reached the end of their combat life expectancy and they have done all of their carrier landings. We fly them to the end of their service life. It’s a testament to our maintenance crew that these fly as much and as often as they do.”
Some of the Blue Angel staff will be judging the Rib Cook-Off in Holtville this Saturday.
“We fly Saturday,” said Hiltz. “The guys will bring us back some samples so we can still be a part of this event.”