Tucson – 3/25/2014
Article and Photos by Steven Valinski
As an aviation enthusiast, I have learned to appreciate Tucson more and more over time. With a commercial airport that has plenty of military activity, a world-class aviation museum, and a major military base, Tucson has a lot to offer aviation enthusiasts. Combine these assets with great weather, and you can see why I look forward to my day trips to Tucson.
We began our excursion at Tucson International Airport. The 162nd Fighter Wing (Arizona ANG), the Air National Guard Air Force Reserve Command Test Center (AATC), and the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF), all fly F-16’s out of TIA. Typically, we like to arrive in the early AM to catch the AM launches. On Tuesday, we were not disappointed. By the time we arrived, shortly after 8am, the AM launches had already begun. All units were flying on this day, so we were able to photograph some of the AZ, AT, and Dutch F-16’s as well as an Army UH-72 Lakota. About one hour later, we moved to our arrivals location and caught most of the same aircraft arriving back to TIA.
With the current “brouhaha” over the future of the A-10, having the opportunity to photograph A-10’s is even more special than usual. Davis-Monthan Air Force Base is always a great base to catch the A-10 in action. At DM, the USAF also flies numerous “specialty” C-130’s such as the EC-130H Compass Call and the HC-130J Combat King II. Another great aspect of DM is the potential for unexpected aircraft. Since DM is the receiving base for AMARG, aircraft designated for retirement fly into DM from time to time on their last flight. On this day, we were able to catch a Lockheed P-3C Orion from NAS Jacksonville on it’s last flight. Also, we caught plenty of A-10’s including the one’s with the new “DP” tail code. These former Barksdale (BD) A-10’s are now part of the 47th Fighter Squadron, which is part of the Air Force Reserve Command, which was formerly out of Barksdale, LA. In addition to other local A-10’s, we were able to catch one of the HC-130J Combat King II’s flying.
Overall, it was another wonderful day photographing aircraft in Tucson. With great weather and airports/bases, Tucson always has a lot to offer aviation enthusiasts.