Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport – 11/16/2013 & 11/17/2013
Article and Photos by Steven Valinski
An appropriate title for this article would have been “Weekend at Willie”, but, since the former Williams Air Force Base is now a commercial airport, I chose not to confuse anyone. When the weather cools down in the state of Arizona, there are some things you can count on with aviation photography in Arizona. One of them is that the level of military aircraft activity at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport will increase, particularly on the weekends. This makes “Willie” a great place to observe/photograph aircraft on the weekends when most military bases have minimal activity.
This weekend did not disappoint. First, let’s discuss what I missed. As I arrived at “Willie”, 3 T-38’s from Vance AFB, in Oklahoma flew above. There were 6 of them at Willie and they were the last ones to depart. Even though “Willie” is a former Air Force Base, we do not get much activity from U.S. Air Force aircraft there. Most of the military activity at “Willie”, especially on the weekends, is from the USMC, and, occasionally, the U.S. Navy.
The weather was great all weekend. Many families, as well as photographers, were spending time at “The Hill” [GPS 33.310312, -111.669354] observing/photographing aircraft. At one point, there were over 30 people on and around “The Hill”. What I did catch were Harriers and Hornets from the USMC. The Harriers were in-and-out most of the weekend getting some training in. In any case, one can say, my “Weekend at Willie” was a positive experience.