EL CENTRO – Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors listened to a presentation regarding the Naval Air Facility El Centro by the new Commanding Officer, Erik Franzen.
A personable Commander “Reno” Franzen introduced himself to the supervisors, telling them he was a native to Southern California also, hailing from Anaheim, CA. He had resigned from the army prior to September 11, 2001 he told the board. The terrorist attacks that day changed his plans forever.
According to Franzen, he rescinded his letter of resignation, realizing his country needed him. Twelve years later he is the newest commanding officer at the El Centro Naval Air after doing many stints around the nation flying various aircraft.
There are no permanent squadrons housed on the base, all are attachments from other locations, Franzen said. Come October the base will have a full detachment of squadrons with base personnel swelling to over 2000, according to the Commander.
Franzen explained the various skills practiced at the base. One of them is practicing landing on an aircraft carrier. “Your desert is as dark as the ocean. We put lights out that duplicate the lights of the aircraft carrier.” The pilots practicing flying in at 200 miles per hour at night to land on a lit postage stamp in the middle of the ocean. To emphasize his point he showed an impressive video of a pilot night flying, in the valley, with blackness everywhere except for a small brightly lit landing box, the same dimensions found on a carrier.
Unofficially, the Blue Angels are still booked to come this winter and have their show on March 15, 2014, Franzen said. After their show here last March, all of their scheduled shows were cancelled due to sequestration.
Franzen is hoping the show happens. They estimate over 50,000 will attend, half of those come from out of the valley. As of now there is a conflict with the Yuma Air Show, but he hopes they can work it out to benefit both shows, instead of competing for the same viewers.