Air Show Draws More Than 40,000

Luke Phillips
Weather conditions put a damper on some of the festivities at the 2010 NAF El Centro Air Show Saturday, March 13th.
But the Blue Angels took flight despite the wind, thrilling a crowd of more than 40,000 people with loops, rolls, dives and precision formations.
Although most performances went on as planned during the windy day, a demonstartion by the motocross jump team Metal Mulisha was called off minutes after it started. And a second show by the Black Daggers parachute jump team was cancelled completely.
Beside the wind, it was a beautiful day for an air show, conditions which Blue Angels C-130 pilot Capt. Ben Blanton says make the Imperial Valley a unique place to fly.

“The weather is fantastic,” Blanton said. “We come here and we’re able to fly just about every day because of the weather.”

Major David Grahm flew his F-16 fighting Falcon at the air show, performing maneuvers taken from actual combat situations, and also flying along side a P-51 Mustang for the Heritage Flight, three laps flown in formation that are meant to demonstrate how far naval air technology has come through the decades. Grahm also said that he enjoys the perfect flying conditions in thevalley.

“We always enjoy coming down to this area of the country,” Grahm said. “The weathers always great. Usually we don’t have to worry about weather when we come to air shows down here, so that’s the great part, and the people are great too. We’ve never had a bad experience.”

Grahm says that the military hosts air shows across the country for a variety of reasons.
“There are recruiting benefits,” Grahm said. “But the other reason we do this is because we want to get these airplanes and the individuals who maintain and operate these aircraft out in front of the American public, to show the American taxpayer what their money pays for.”
Capt. Ben Blanton, who flies C-130 transport plane Fat Albert, for the Blue Angels, also says he’s proud to represent the military to the public.
“We take great pride in doing what we do and we get excited to be able to take a little bit of the professionalism that’s shown by the men and women of the armed forces all over the world and bring it back to the people,” Blanton said. “It’s really just an honor to be able to do what we do in front of a bunch of people.”
Blanton says his main motivation for being part of the Blue Angels is to inspire young people.
“When you get to go out and you get to talk to a kid and you get to make that face-to-face interaction and see their eyes light up, or you see them watching the demonstration and getting inspired, that’s what we’re all about. That connection is what we’re really here for,” Blanton said. “We really love it here and we hope to come back to the Imperial Valley every year from here on out.”
Melinda Gutierrez, a 1999 graduate of Calexico High School, has been working as an administrator for the Blue Angels for the past three years, and says she’s honored to be able to serve as a role model for young people in the Imperial Valley.
“I’m very privileged,” Gutierrez said. “It’s great. It’s a good experience. I feel like a real good role model, especially being from this area.”
Gutierrez offered some advice for young people who might want to follow in her footsteps some day.
“Stay in school, aim high, and follow every dream no matter what it is,” Gutierrez said. “It’s a lot of hard work, but you can get there.”