Shawn´s American Adventure - five airshows, four bases & one low level route

Update: 2021/08/05  by Shawn Clish / CHK6

On March 11, 2020, I boarded an Air Canada flight in Toronto and headed southwest to Las Vegas for a week-long trip that was to include Exercise Red Flag and air shows at NAF El Centro and MCAS Yuma. While the virus had been making headlines globally, the impact it would have in North America was not readily apparent. Unfortunately, everything changed the following day. Closures and cancellations were all over the news, including the events in El Centro and Yuma. Reluctantly, with nothing going on and a lot of uncertainty about safety, I headed home after only 36 hours in the US. As 2020 turned to 2021 I really started to miss the ability to travel that I had unknowingly taken for granted. While I loved seeing the photos coming from events like Red Flag, WTI and Sun ’n Fun, I wanted to be able to attend, enjoy the atmosphere, interact with fellow enthusiasts and of course, take pictures. Although the land border between Canada and the United States has been closed since March 21, 2020, the ability to enter the US through the air has remained possible with the only obstacle being the requirement to quarantine upon return. With this in mind a plan started to take shape that would pack enough aviation into a multiple week trip to make the quarantine worthwhile. The bookends for this adventure were set, starting at Nellis AFB for Weapons School Integration (WSINT) and ending with an opportunity to catch some jets flying low level through the Cascade Mountains in Washington. The southwestern US has many military bases and museums and there were air shows each weekend providing multiple contingency options should the weather not cooperate.

My adventure started on Tuesday, June 1 on the first Air Canada Express flight to Denver since the service had been halted on February 12, 2021. I was stunned to arrive at the bustling airport in Denver after departing from an empty terminal in Toronto. I felt fortunate to get the last seat on the second flight I tried, a Southwest 737 bound for Las Vegas.

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