El Centro Air Show 2012 in Review

The smell of jet fuel still lingers in the air at NAS El Centro following the conclusion of the first major air show of 2012. The first show brought delight to many after what had been a difficult off season that focused more on teams cutting back rather than building up budgets. The air show austerity forced the shutdown of most of the Air Force singe ship demo teams of A-10 East & West, F-16 teams Viper East & West and the F-15 Strike Eagle.

But the heartaches of the off season weren’t enough to stave off throngs of fans like Mike Webb from Tennessee. Mike and his wife, Fran Webb comes down a week early for the show to watch as the Blue Angels prepare for opening weekend. The Blue Angels traditionally kick off their air show season here at NAS El Centro as it is their practice prior to the actual season start date.

Many of the off-season changes brought ushered in some old faces in new roles. Former A-10 West Demo Pilot Joe “Rifle” Shutterly, who was here with his team, Rifle Airshows and sponsor Aviation Solutions, made his season debut in El Centro. He will be flying an RV-8 that features a very unique registration of N76540, which the original builder had come up with as a way of remembering each aircraft he had flown in the military, starting with the 7 is for A-7, 6 – F106, 5 – F5, 4 – F104 and 0 represents the F-100 and the A-10.

This year’s NAS El Centro show also featured Tim Weber, who has acquired an entirely new aircraft with a sleek blue and yellow Geico paint job for the season. The new scheme will be sure to catch the eyes of air show followers across the country this year.

Spencer Suderman, making his season debut with his friend Bill Cornick was also at the show racing each other around the airfield and showing the fans what planes with props can really do.

Making his air show debut was Torrey Ward, who will be flying a Glasair III for the 2012 season sponsored by ONE Coconut Water. He was treated to a nice cool bath following his landing by Joe and Spencer.

As the anticipation builds toward the closing act, the Blue Angels, under the command of Captain Greg McWherter for the 4th year. He is joined by two new pilots in the diamond this season, Lieutenant John Hiltz who will take the right wing in the diamond formation, along with Captain Brandon Cordill who will take the left wing. Flying the slot position this season will be second year pilot Major Brent Stevens.

The two solo pilots are Lieutenant CJ Simonsen and Lieutenant David Tickle. Simonsen joined the team in 2010 as narrator, flew the 2011 season as opposing solo, and this year will be flying the #5 or lead solo. Tickle was the narrator last year and will be flying the #6 or opposing solo this year. This year’s is Lieutenant Mark Tedrow; a new addition.

If you have never been to or seen a Blue Angels show, you are sure to be in for a shock at how these six pilots are so precise while performing maneuvers that you would never expect to see. From a slow nearly stalling the aircraft type pass known as the high alpha to the sneak ones that scare many who never see the plane coming with its full afterburner engaged.

As the noise settles over the NAS El Centro Valley, the roar of the jet engines and smoke of all the acts moves on to new venues all across the country sure to excite fans everywhere!

PhotoRecon would also like to send a special thanks to Captain Mark Hubbard who was flying the Bearcat for some special access on Friday Night following the Blue Angels Pep Rally to get some great night shots of his aircraft along with the Commemorative Air Force’s Texan!


Brandon Farris

Brandon Farris is an avid aviation photographer who spends his weekends off traveling across the country taking pictures of both civilian and military aircraft. He uses Canon as his main camera. The body he currently uses is the T2i combined with the 100-400MM. When not traveling Brandon resides in Seattle, Washington.

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