The annual one-day airshow held at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in south-west Arizona is by no stretch of the imagination one of the largest airshows in America, yet every year people come to watch from as far away as San Francisco. One reason for this is that it's held very early in the year, which suits the snowbirds from northern states who are still in the area, as well as providing a welcome "fix" to the hard-core airshow addicts who have just endured several months of winter deprivation.
One word of warning, though, to Californians who come to the show - even though Yuma is just across the state line from California, Arizona is one time zone ahead, so you need to plan for that one hour time difference.
Yuma is a pleasantly laid-back airshow where the crowd is spread out enough that you can get a good seat to see the flying display whatever time you arrive. It's also a photographer's dream, one of the minority of airshows where the sun is behind you all day, providing excellent light for capturing the aircraft as they fly. As with many American airshows the show usually starts with a parachute team, followed by various civilian aerobatic acts, as well as civilian display teams flying American and foreign military training aircraft.
This is definitely not a show for warbirds enthusiasts, you're likely to go away empty handed if you arrive expecting to see P-51 Mustangs or other retired fighter aircraft. What you will see is displays by some modern members of the American military arsenal - in 2005 this consisted of demonstrations by two air force birds - an F-16 Fighting Falcon and the F-15 Eagle you see in this photo, and another up-close demonstration by a marine corps AV-8B Harrier jump jet. The Harrier performance, consisting of vertical takeoffs and landings near the crowd line is extremely loud, so watch out if you're bringing young children!
The flying display at Yuma might not be first-tier, but the static display in the crowd area is absolutely top rate, on a par with many of the better-known and much larger shows. Every year they bring together a large collection of marine corps, air force and navy planes, as well as other attractions like a navy dive tank and army armored vehicles and tanks.
Of course, for me the main attraction is the static aircraft display, which always has exotic aircraft such as this German Air Force Tornado fighter/bomber, as well as five or six different types of helicopters and various delights for aviation enthusiasts, such as some of the less flashy navy and air force aircraft like the S-3 Viking submarine hunter, various cargo transports and other specialized aircraft like AWACS planes and aerial refuelling tankers.
However, you don't have to be an aviation geek to enjoy the static display, there's some welcome shade there, the kids are bound to enjoy seeing all of that exciting hardware and during the course of the show it's nice to stretch your legs and wander around during breaks in the flying display - knowing that the viewing area is close by if anything interesting starts to happen.