The Blue Angels flight team will perform in El Centro this weekend as part of an air show marking the 75th anniversary of the Naval Air Facility there, the Navy said Wednesday.
But amid the pandemic, the public won’t be allowed on base a la the annual MCAS Miramar Air Show, which is still scheduled to host thousands when it returns in late September.
Instead, radio narration is planned. And Imperial Valley residents will watch from home.
“From Seeley to Brawley and everywhere in between, you can see most of the performance from the comfort and safety of your backyard,” said Capt. William Perkins, base commanding officer.
“We’re going to ask folks to stay safe at home and instead of you coming to us, we’re going to bring the show to you!” he said in a statement. “A radio broadcast is an exciting concept and we are ready to execute.”
Branded as the Festival of Flight, the show will air on KXO AM 1230 and FM 107.5 FM from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday.
“KXO is truly honored to help facilitate the Festival of Flight,” said Gene Brister, KXO president and general manager. “We believe this historic event will put smiles on the faces of young and old alike throughout the region.”
Besides the Navy’s elite flight squadron, the Blue Angels — marking their own 75th anniversary and transitioning to the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets — other scheduled acts include the Air Force’s A-10 Thunderbolt II, the Navy’s F/A-18 TACDEMO and the jump team – the Navy SEAL Leapfrogs.
“The Festival of Flight is welcomed, positive and a safe experience for the Imperial Valley,” said Elizbeth Espinoza, governmental relations officer at Imperial Valley College. “The community is excited to celebrate during a time where we all feel socially disconnected but can stay virtually connected.”
Perimeter roads around the base will be closed due to security protocols during an airshow and in accordance with FAA regulations to maintain the safety of civilians and military personnel, the Navy says.
“I can’t think of a better way to thank the community for their support of NAF El Centro all these years,” added Brister. “You’re tuning into history.”
Making military aviation history is not new for NAF El Centro.
In 1959, the base was instrumental in designing and testing the first successful high-speed jet altitude ejection seat and the Mercury Space Program parachute system, used for the first U.S. manned satellites and the Apollo re-entry system.
The first official parachute demonstration team of the United States Navy, The Chuting Stars, was formed at El Centro in 1961.