Ever picture yourself with courtside seats at an NBA game, sitting so close to the action that even you could block Kobe? Maybe sitting on the 50-yard line at your favorite NFL stadium? As awesome as that sounds (and I’d never turn down those courtside seats at a Spurs game…. that’s really kind of you to offer!) we’ll take our runwayside spot at Naval Air Facility El Centro any day of the week, and twice on Burner Friday! Apart from actually being in the jet, it’s hard to get much closer to the action than literally standing on the edge of the runway.
Roaring past and so close that it hurts, this ridiculous dose of the Sound of Freedom is courtesy of the 410 Tactical Fighter (Operational Training) Squadron. The “Cougars” are a Royal Canadian Air Force squadron located at Canada’s primary training (and busiest fighter) base for the CF-188–the Canadian Forces version of the McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) F/A-18 Hornet, at CFB Cold Lake, Alberta. The squadron was formed during the in 1941 as an RCAF squadron under the Royal Air Force (RAF), at RAF Ayr, near Prestwick, in Scotland. During the Second World War, they made quite a name for themselves; many Cougars became aces flying nighttime air defense missions over Great Britain, France, and the Netherlands. Nowadays they’re still very much in the fighter business, only now with motto to “Train World Class Fighter Pilots to Meet Canada’s Needs.”
So here we have a CF-188B with both wicks lit in all of their glory, blasting down the runway at Naval Air Facility El Centro, located east of San Diego. It’s fairly routine for our northern neighbors to send their hardware south during the colder months, both to give their aircraft and personnel a bit of a break from the cold, harsh winters of Alberta.
Another noteworthy detail in the featured photo is the deflection of the horizontal stabs, commanding the tail down and demanding the nose up to rotate and bid adieu to terra firma. Also note the CRV7 rocket pod underneath the left wing, indicating this jet is going to go out and move a little bit of dirt on the nearby range!
We are very grateful to the NAF El Centro for opening up their doors, and thanks also must go to the Cougars and their support of the Friday Afterburner Association!
(Featured photo by Jonathan Derden)