Paul Filmer's 2011 blogGAR Entries

NOV 30 2011
blogGAR: Two Days Around NAF El Centro

On the afternoon drive from San Diego I happened across a Kaman K-Max participating in some lifting work for some new electrical towers. This was in the area just over the mountains coming towards the flatlands that lead to El Centro. Even though the lure of jets landing in perfect soft light beckoned, I couldnít resist chasing a helicopter working in the wild!

By the time I arrived at El Centro there was only around 10 minutes of usable light left, but I still managed to catch a few F/A-18s landing.

With our time on base due to start at midday, we followed the usual ritual which was to shoot from the canal at the west end as the sun rises beforehand. In this location youíll see departing aircraft and hopefully get a couple of early left turns. The most unusual aircraft seen was a VMFAT-101 Sharpshooter/Devilfish F/A-18A, which was a transient that day. This would be the only Hornet flight gas-and-go that we would see. Appearing in the pattern also was a C-2, which is a usual sight pretty much each and every day.

Formalities finished and it was off to the LSO shack for some close-up shooting. Arguably the best seat in the house - the action is close, loud and fast. Most of the shooters come away with very similar shots, but I tried to do some things a little differently this time around, attempting some slow speed panning. At this distance, you have to pan really fast!

The only visitors while we were on base, incidentally, was a pair of AH-1Ws which were in for the hot-fuelling pits.

By the time we left the base the sun had already set so it was a good opportunity to catch up with fellow friends and shooters at a local eatery.

The next morning we headed back to the canal, and this time I drove further west to catch more of the aircraft in the break. To the north I spied a Hiller UH-12E spraying a field a mile or two away. Not only are these helicopters increasingly rare, but to find one working is always a nice find. Not being able to judge exactly where he was I decided to continue driving alongside the fields on the dirt roads. I made it as far as a quarry, but couldn't get any closer unfortunately as he was actually the other side of a road! So, I made my way back and this time drove around via normal roads!

The Hiller was replenishing his hopper on the top of a truck and I only caught him on a few passes before he landed and shutdown for the day, due to the increasing thermals from the ground.

Back at the canal another pair of AH-1Ws arrived from the west and one of the Canadian Hornets was carrying live munitions, which we hadnít seen the previous day, before I had to leave for San Diego to catch my flight home.

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