Paul Dunn's 2010 blogGAR Entries

AUG 06 2010
Phoenix Again...

Another month, another trip to Phoenix! This time around, the heat had abated slightly, but with the American south west entering its ‘Monsoon’ season the humidity was high and there was much more cloud around than I am used to in this area! Frankly, if I wanted cloud I could have stayed in the UK, but that is being picky!

With just a day and a half in the area this time, I was a little more limited on what I could do. However, thanks to a heads up from one of the local AZ photographers, a brief stop on the top floor of one of the multi storey car parks at Sky Harbor International was very profitable.

One of the companies with a presence at Sky Harbor is engine manufacturer Honeywell Aerospace, who mainly produce powerplants for corporate jets and regional airliners. These engines are tested under flight conditions using the company’s modified Boeing 757, with the test engine being mounted on the right hand side of the fuselage.

On the morning of my visit to PHX, the 757 departed for a test flight of just over three hours – most of that time being spent flying in a racetrack pattern close to the Mexican border. Fortunately, thanks to the heads up from Joe, I was at Sky Harbor at the right time to catch it returning to its base.

With the 757 on the ground, I decided to head to my favourite haunt – Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport. Although still early on a Friday I was hopeful of some military movements, and I wasn’t disappointed as a pair of US Marine Corps Harriers soon entered the circuit. The Harriers were closely followed by a second pair, and all four aircraft stayed overnight.

The Harriers were all from MCAS Yuma based VMA-211 Wake Island Avengers, with the second aircraft in the first pair being the squadron commander’s aircraft and carrying an appropriate special colour scheme.

Apparently this scheme was recently painted on the aircraft during a deployment to Japan, and it certainly looked very smart, although the fact that the aircraft was the number two in the formation made it more difficult to get a shot of the aircraft due to the heat haze from the lead aircraft.

There was an interesting mix of colour schemes on the four Harriers, with two carrying the rather smart new dark grey colours and the other two being painted in the older, paler scheme.

All four aircraft remained at Gateway on the Saturday too, and these photos are a mix of shots from both days.

During the early evening on Friday, a regular visitor turned up – apparently on the first Friday of each month, a C-17A pays a brief visit to Gateway in order to pick up some USAF reservists and take them to their weekend training location at Nellis AFB. By the time the C-17 arrived, it had become very murky, and in fact the aircraft departed during a dust storm!

Finally, I was pleased to catch an aircraft which has eluded me for some time. The US Army Reserve has a C-12T based at Gateway, and operated by the OSACOM (Operational Support Airlift Command) AZ Regional Flight Center. The aircraft flies regularly, but I had not previously managed to photograph it, so I was very pleased to catch it departing on Saturday morning.

So, another great trip to Arizona, made even better by the excellent company at Gateway – thanks as ever are due to local snappers Joe, Jason, Jack and Bill, along with Matt and the staff at Gateway Aviation Services.

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2010-11-29 - Matt
Paul - Great pictures as usual. I am playing catch up on your blog. Glad to see your trip was a success!

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