USA VI 2019
Our sixth and final tour to the USA in 2019 saw 4Aviation visiting Arizona, California and Nevada again. The tour was scheduled around the Aviation Nation air show at Nellis AFB and included several of our favourite places in this area.
On Saturday 9 November seven participants met at Schiphol for the flight to Phoenix IAP. After a smooth flight, via Washington-Dulles, the eighth guest, who flew straight from Germany to Phoenix, was soon met. After car pick-up it was only a 20 minute drive to our first hotel in Mesa (AZ).
On Sunday 10 November we explored multiple locations in and around Phoenix. We started at Mesa-Williams Gateway, the former Williams AFB, where we found three Sheppard AFB T-6 Texan IIs, four T-1As from Laughlin AFB and two US Navy T-45 Goshawks. Besides that a Honduran Air Force Embraer 135 was parked outside the local Embraer facility.
At Phoenix IAP we saw a single C-17 next to the based KC-135s. Sometimes some military visitors can be found at the general aviation ramp. When we approached the general aviation ramp, the complete group started to smile as three rarely seen MH-47Gs from 160th SOAR were parked on this ramp, next to another T-6A Texan II and a AFSOC U-28A.
Probably because of the presence of the MH-47Gs, we were soon asked to leave the platform, time to head for Papago AAF, where a small museum is on base. On this Army Airfield we found 5 more 160th SOAR MH-60Ms and 3 MH-6Ms Little Birds, the latter 3 would depart during our visit.
After leaving Papago AAF, we went back to Williams Gateway via Mesa Falcon Field. At the latter the small but nice Arizona Commemorative Air Force Museum was visited. At Williams Gateway nothing had changed, except for the sun being on a better photography position for the Honduran ERJ135. Now it was time to head for Tucson where we would stay two days.
Monday 11 November was Veterans Day, the group would split up and four people would do an early morning flight over the Boneyard. The rest of the group paid a visit to the impressive Pima Air Museum. The AMARG flight was done at 5,000ft which gave a nice opportunity to see the 3,000+ aircraft stored over here.
After the Pima museum was visited and the AMARG flight was over, we went to AMARG for some pictures from outside the fence. Mid-afternoon we drove to Marana for a pre-arranged visit to the Fighting Classic Aircraft Restoration Inc. This company is specialized in the restoration of A-4 Skyhawks to airworthy condition. Therefore they own around 20 A-4s that are stored outside. During our visit they were working on restoring a T-6 Texan. All stored aircraft could be photographed nicely. Also on the ramp was an US Army UH-72A.
On Tuesday 12 November, we went to Tucson ANGB early to take pictures of the local 162nd FW F-16s. Activity started shortly after 8 am and continued until our departure to nearby Davis Monthan AFB. There the A-10 activity was a bit slow, with only 357th FS active with eight Warthogs. As there was also a temporary deployment of T-38Cs and a local HC-130J was flying we still enjoyed a couple of hours near the fence. Shortly after lunch we decided to start the 5 hour journey to El Centro, with a planned stop at MCAS Yuma to see if there was any activity over there. Arriving at Yuma around 4 pm we were just too late to see the arrival of two F-35Bs. A quick overview on the ramp revealed that VMFA-251 was deployed over here with a couple of Hornets. Only other activity was the arrival from a nice camouflaged UH-72A from Barstow Daggett. Time to head for El Centro!
On Wednesday 13 November we went to NAF El Centro. While waiting for departure from our hotel, already four T-45Cs from NAS Meridian were seen active. While arriving, T-45C activity continued as a total of 18 Goshawks were deployed to El Centro. In the hours to follow, also some Harriers left, as did a KC-10 and a Danish C-130J. The Army Air Corps WAH-64Ds could only be seen from a distance, as were two US Army Blackhawks from Fort Hood and two more Harriers. While preparing for departure to leave for MCAS Yuma, a nice C-2A Greyhound arrived to practise approaches with the Carrier Landing Signal system. During our visit to NAF El Centro two MV-22Bs arrived at El Centro Imperial County Airport, which of course were photographed as well. As we had seen almost all T-45Cs active we decided to head for MCAS Yuma. At Yuma we were welcome by a US Army RO-6A parked at the General Aviation Ramp. Also a Harrier was active as were four F-5Ns and four F-35Bs which could all be photographed. VMFA-251 towed more Hornets outside but sadly remained inactive. At the end of the day a KC-130J practised some approaches. After this we headed for Phoenix via Gila Bend. Here two F-101 Voodoo’s are preserved at the local airport. As it was already dark we gave them some light with our vans. While taking pictures of these Voodoo’s, an Apache Longbow arrived here for a few minutes before heading to the Barry M. Goldwater Range.
Today, Thursday 14 November, we visited Luke AFB, more precise, we had a visit to the 308th FS where the Royal Netherlands Air Force has its training detachment for F-35A pilot training. As this visit started at 10am, we started outside the fence taking pictures of the arrival of ROCAF F-16s and many, many F-35As from Norway, Italy, The Netherlands, Australia and of course the US Air Force. During the briefing at the 308th FS briefing room, we were told that our photography permission for the Dutch F-35As was withdrawn at the last minute. In the end it was still a great visit where all six RNLAF F-35As present, as were many others including two of the stored Turkish F-35As. After the visit we were allowed to take pictures from the Luke AFB heritage park and went for a quick take-away lunch on base before heading to the approach again to enjoy more F-16s and F-35As in the afternoon. A T-38C made a fuel stop before moving on to the airshow at Nellis AFB.
On Friday 15 November Luke AFB was visited again to enjoy more F-16s and F-35As. In total more than 140 different aircraft were noted in these two days at Luke AFB. Highlight on this Friday was the return of two Norwegian F-35As with two F-15Cs from the California ANG. After watching the take-off of the locally based 310th FS with their F-16s, it was time to start for the 5 hour ride to Las Vegas where we arrived early evening. After a short fresh up most of the group went for a dinner in one of the Hotel/Casinos and enjoyed the strip afterwards.
Saturday 16 November was one of the day’s most had been waiting for, the Aviation Nation airshow at Nellis AFB. Having visited this airshow before, it was decided to be early at the parking lot outside the base 90 minutes before showground opening. This was right on time as they just opened security checkpoint on our arrival. After this coaches were transporting us on base. The static airshow had, as can be expected at Nellis, a nice mix of aircraft form both based and visiting aircraft form the Air Force and US Navy. Foreign visitor was a German P-3, which was nicely welcome by our German travellers. Highlights of the airshow were both the opening ceremony which resulted in a HC-130J, 4x T-38C and a single F-22 as well as the capability demonstration by the home team (1x F-22A, 2x F-35As, 4x F-16Cs, 2x F-15Es and 2x HH-60Gs) which was very impressive, the F-35 Demonstration Team and of course the Thunderbirds. After the show we went back to our hotel for a nice dinner and enjoying the strip again.
Sunday 17 November was departure day for us. As we had to be at the airport early afternoon, there was still time to watch Aviation Nation from the north side of Nellis AFB to view the opening and the capability demonstration from outside the fence, which gave some nice and different photography opportunities. After the capability demonstration we went to Las Vegas McCarran airport for our long flight to Amsterdam via Frankfurt. By then it was Monday 18 November already.