Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport – Week of: 1/6/2014 through 1/12/2014
Article and Photos by Steven Valinski
It was a busy week with military aircraft at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport in Mesa, Arizona. Formerly known as Williams Air Force Base, “Willie” (as it is referred to by the locals) is still an attractive option for squadrons/detachments looking to get some training sorties in, or, as a “stopover” for aircraft on their way to their final destination. Within the next week, I will be posting a more in-depth article on Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport and I will include an overview of the airport’s rich history in military aviation.
Earlier in the week, a group of McDonnell Douglas T-45 Goshawk’s from Training Air Wing TWO (TW-2) out of Naval Air Station Kingsville stopped by for a few days. TW-2’s focus is on training naval aviators from the U.S. Navy and the USMC. To support the joint training endeavor, these T-45’s have “Navy” markings on one side and “Marines” markings on the other. The group visiting included the Training Squadron Twenty-One (VT-21) “Fighting Redhawks” color bird. These aircraft spent a few days in-and-out on training sorties which provided some opportunities for taxiing and departure shots. Typically when the T-45’s are visiting they are transition “to or from” NAF El Centro where they spend time training.
Typically when “Willie” shines is on the weekend. When many bases are closed, or have limited personnel, the military will use the airport as a base for training ops. This past weekend was an active one. To kick the weekend off, we had a few Boeing F/A-18E Super Hornets from VFA-147 out of NAS Lemoore in California. VFA-147 is part of Carrier Air Wing Eleven deployed to the USS Nimitz. These aircraft visited for a few hours on Friday and Sunday. Other aircraft that came in included AV-8B Harrier II’s from MCAS Yuma, Northrop F-5 Tiger II’s from MCAS Yuma and, a pair of Hornets from MCAS Miramar. In addition, as a very nice surprise, we had a “stopover” pair of Canadian (RCAF) BAE CT-155 Hawk’s that stayed overnight before heading out to Nellis AFB on Sunday.
With several upcoming military exercises (Red Flag & WTI) and several air shows, it is going to be a very busy time for aviation photographers in the Western United States during the coming months. In the meantime, there always seems to be plenty of action at “Willie” to keep an aviation enthusiast/photographer busy.