If you’ve never shot photographs at NAF El Centro before, you’ve certainly missed out on one of the most exhilarating experiences of any aviation photographer’s career. It’s not that you’re within sight of the runway. It’s not that you’re within a stone’s throw of the runway. You are literally….right there.

Don’t misunderstand. We have never been ON the runway while jets have been taking off and landing, but I will say we’ve been pretty darn close. Our demarcation line for safety is the LSO shack; we were never allowed forward of the imaginary line extending from the front edge of the shack down the entire length of the runway. Let me tell you, when a Hornet or Super Hornet goes by in full blower and the missile rail passes within a few feet of your noggin’….it’s close enough.

Case and point? This shot of a Canadian Forces CF-18 Hornet taking off for a training mission. If it looks like I was close…I was. It was hot, it was loud, and by day’s end we absolutely reeked of jet fuel. But it was awesome.

Thanks to the men and women of 4 WG Cold Lake for being there and entertaining us, to Michelle Dee–the NAF El Centro PAO, and to my good friend Kevin Whitehead for setting up the photo call.