By Lt. Spencer Washom
VP-30 Public Affairs Officer
The annual air show at Naval Air Facility El Centro, California, marks the official beginning of the air show season for Patrol Squadron (VP) 30, as well as the Navy Flight Demonstration Team "Blue Angels."
At this year's March 11 show, a P-3C Orion from the Pro's Nest at NAS Jacksonville flew to El Centro to join a collection of 44 aircraft from naval aviation's beginning to the newest generation of active military warplanes.
Of note was a Douglas C-53 Skytrooper transport that actively dropped American forces as part of the D-Day invasion in 1944. The sound of its radial engines landing in El Centro set the tone for the weekend that honored aviation's expansive history.
Performances on Saturday included four separate parachute jumps from the Navy "Leap Frogs" and the Army "Black Daggers" - both teams made up of active duty Special Forces attached to the demonstration teams before returning to service. Two dogfights were also flown featuring a Mitsubishi A6M Zero versus a P-51 Mustang as well as a MiG-15 versus an F-86.
The P-3C was also part of a displayed lineage featuring its World War II predecessor, the Consolidated CB4Y Privateer, nearby the active duty patrol aircraft.
The Orion aircrew consisted of 10 volunteers from the VP-30 Pro's Nest who gave an in- depth tour of the aircraft to interested persons among the 47,000 attendees. Former Maritime Patrol Force servicemen, submariners and civilians alike were able to sit in the cockpit and receive first hand instruction on the Orion's tactical stations. One El Centro native who saw P-3s frequently while in the Seabees, commented on the presence of the aircraft, "I've been to a good amount of airshows in my life - but I've never had a chance to get inside of a P-3 like this. It's great to see one up close."
The VP-30 crew welcomed a constant stream of people at the top of the ladder until the doors closed for the final demonstration put on by the Blue Angels. Since air show season has now begun, VP-30 will be sending P-3 and P-8 aircraft across the country to give people a chance to see their nation's Maritime Patrol Force up close.