Paul Dunn shares some images from a recent weekend in Arizona, a state with a huge variety of aircraft to be photographed!
Back in September, I made a return to Phoenix, having not visited for some time. Arizona is always a great place to go, there are plenty of opportunities to take photos of aircraft, and often a few surprises to be seen. As my day off was on a Sunday, there were limited options for visits, but I decided to spend a day in the Tucson area. First thing on the agenda on arrival on Saturday evening though, was a quick visit to Phoenix-Mesa Gateway airport to see if there were any interesting aircraft nightstopping on the FBO ramp. I was rewarded with the sight of a US Marine Corps KC-130J from VMGR-352 ‘Raiders’, plus a US Navy T-34 from TAW-4.
Although it was dark, I was able to get a couple of shots over the fence, the only disappointment being that I missed getting the moon right behind the C-130 by a matter of less than half an hour; you can see the light of the moon behind the clouds in the top of the frame.
Next day I met up with my buddy Joe Copalman and headed down the I10 towards Tucson. The intention was to visit the excellent Pima Air and Space Museum, somewhere I’ve been to a couple of times over the years. It had been three years since my last visit though, and Pima is a museum that is constantly changing, so it was high time I made a return visit.
The deep blue sky was dotted with cumulus clouds, so my favourite shots of the day were taken using my 10-22mm wide angle lens, as this is a lens which really brings out the beauty in the sky, and is especially suited to conditions such as these.
Aircraft which have seen some attention since the last time I visited included the KB-50, which has been polished all over, giving it a great sheen.
The former East German Mi-24 is another recent restoration and looks very smart.
The C-141 Starlifter has long been a favourite type of mine, and having recently written a history of the aircraft for a forthcoming Global Aviation Magazine feature, I was keen to have a look around Pima’s preserved example, unusual as it features the SOLL II special operations modifications, for special forces support.
There are also several aircraft from art installation “The Boneyard Project” still on display. This exhibition included several aircraft used as ‘canvases’ for street artists; the results aren’t to everyone’s tastes, but certainly look striking.
After spending several very pleasant hours at the museum, Joe and I took a brief look at a couple of the scrap yards bordering the AMARG facility at Davis-Monthan AFB. As it was a Sunday, there was no one about, so we were able to get some shots over the fence. There are some rather unusual types to be seen, such as this former US Navy EC-130Q, which performed the TACAMO mission until replaced by the E-6 Mercury.
I first became aware of the existence of AMARG/AMARC as a young lad through books such as ‘Desert Boneyard’ by Philip Chinnery, and I was fascinated by the rows of stored aircraft; in those days, the rows always included masses of types such as the Grumman S-2 Tracker and C-118 Liftmaster.
These days, of course, the types stored in AMARG are rather more modern, but the scrap yards give a glimpse of what those past days looked like, with, for example, rows of Trackers still to be seen.
Someone obviously thinks that there could be a demand for Trackers, or at least parts from them, in the future and with aircraft still in service with several Asian and South American air arms, along with S-2T and Firecat firefighting conversions, that could well be the case.
There are a few very interesting machines tucked away in the back of the yard, all but out of view, including F-8 Crusaders, some P-2 Neptunes (also still used for firefighting) and a couple of C-7 Caribous. Certainly somewhere I would love to have a proper look around, but almost certainly it will remain very much off limits!
A very pleasant day complete, we headed back to Phoenix. After dropping Joe off, I made a brief stop at Gateway to see if anything else had showed up during the day, but there was still just the KC-130 and T-34. The light was nice though.
Next day I spent the afternoon at Gateway, hoping to get a couple of military transients. In the event, it was a pretty quiet day, with the first movement of note being the departure of the KC-130.
After a couple of quiet hours, I was pleased to see a USMC UH-1Y join overhead for landing. I was even happier to see it was from HMLA-467 ‘Sabers’ from MCAS Cherry Point, a unit I had not shot before.
The UH-1 was only on the ground for a very short time; after refuelling the helicopter departed, possibly for MCAS Yuma, where there was a WTI course due to start shortly afterwards.
The UH-1 was the only military movement during the day, but there were a few other interesting aircraft to be seen. A first for me was one of Allegiant’s recently acquired A319s; the Airbus looks rather smart in the airlines colourful scheme.
Another very enjoyable trip to the US, made even more so by catching up with some friends, including Joe and also Jack and Matt at Gateway; hope to see you all again soon.