Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport – 1/13/2014 through 1/26/2014
Article and Photos by Steven Valinski
Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport is popular with United State Marine Corps aviators, especially on the weekends. AV-8B Harriers, F/A-18 Hornets, and F-5 Tiger II’s often appear on the weekends to run training sorties and/or transition elsewhere. With last weekend being a holiday weekend (MLK Day), the activity slowed a little, but not enough to deter aviation photographers like myself and the many aircraft observers that make it to the “hill” to watch aircraft. With beautiful weather this time of year, it is commonplace to see 50 or more people observing on, or around, the “hill” when military aircraft are present. It is nice to see families bringing out their children to watch aircraft while inspiring the next generation of aviators, or, at the very least, aviation enthusiasts.
In the past few weeks we saw a nice variety of military and civilian aircraft come through Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport. Several USMC AV-8B Harriers came through from MCAS Yuma. A USMC KC-130J spent a few days in town conducting night operations. A few “pleasant surprises” included a commercially owned Ulan-Ude Mi-171. This Russian helicopter is the export version of the Mi-8AMT which is a variant of the Mi-17. Another surprise was an F/A-18E Super Hornet from VFA-31 “Tomcatters” out of NAS Oceana in Virginia. We also saw some Euro-NATO T-6’s from Sheppard AFB spend the night. These pilots are part of the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training and are from countries such as Germany and Italy. We also saw a few interesting commercial aircraft with a few Boeing 767’s passing through.
While the holiday weekend slowed the volume of military action down a little, the past few weeks were still good for aviation enthusiasts. Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport can be a great place for aircraft observation and photography. Observing from the “Hill”, people often get a view of military aircraft you would never see as “up close” at other airports/bases. With beautiful weather, good facilities, and an observer-friendly location, aircraft observation/photography at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport is a wonderful way to spend a weekend afternoon.