The storage facility at Davis Monthan AFB in Tucson AZ is very famous. The storage of so many airframes that are either gradually being broken down for parts or that have the potential to make it back into service is well known and has been the subject of many books and articles. Getting access to the facility is a bit harder than it used to be but there is a tour that is run each day from the Pima Air and Space Museum across the road from the base.
The tour is on a bus that doesn’t allow anyone off so it is not ideal either from a photography perspective or from the point of view of exploring the more unusual aircraft. However, it is a simple thing to do so making the trip on the bus was the option I went with when I was there a few years ago. The bus had tinted windows which affect the photos quite a bit and you are stuck on one side of the bus so anything on the opposite side is a case of seeing what luck you have shooting across the bus. Reflections are a constant problem of course.
The storage facility is exactly as you imagine it would be. The lines of aircraft of the same type are very cool. It really doesn’t matter what the type is. Seeing so many of one type together, often with a wide variety of unit markings, is impressive. The big types like the C-5, the C-141 and the B-1B dominate their areas. The smaller types can be scattered in amongst them. Some look rather forlorn, often without the gear any more, mounted on wooden frames. Other locations have parts stacked up. A selection of wings from A-10s were stacked in a row. At some point I need to make the plan to visit and investigate the facility in a lot more detail.
This year is the 40th anniversary of the first flight of the Fairchild A-10 Thunderbolt II or Warthog to most people. Global Aviation Resource wanted to celebrate this event in the magazine so I headed off to Tucson Arizona to visit Davis Monthan AFB. Well known for being home of the boneyard, DM is also the home of three A-10 squadrons. Two are training units and the third is an operational squadron.
I was visiting both a training squadron and an operational unit to see he people train to fly the jet today as well as learn about how it is used today. I have had a soft spot for the A-10 for as long as I can remember. Visiting an A-10 unit is a treat for me. This is still true even if it is 105F in Tucson while I am visiting!
The team took great care of me while I was there. I spent the morning with Major John “Tex” Lesho who is an instructor on the jet with a number of tours at different locations with the aircraft. He gave me a great description about the aircraft and the training process as well as the changes that have been introduced in recent upgrades. He also had some great stories as would be expected of someone who has been flying the jet a long time. During the visit with him the opportunity was presented to head to the weapons ranges to watch the jets training. However, this involved a long drive each way and would have taken up most of the day. Since I was there to learn about the units, going to photograph the jets gunning the range couldn’t be done. It would have been great to do and hopefully I will get another chance in the future.
In the afternoon it was time to visit the operational squadron. Beercan Collier was my host. I mentioned Beercan in a previous post for those of you paying attention. He gave me a rundown on how the unit works as well as the additional work he has with the Heritage Flight duties. He then handed my off to a group of pilots who were getting ready to launch on a four ship mission. We watched them sign out the jets and then head out for start up and launch. They were very accommodating but I did make sure to stay out of the way. Launching military jets does not happen quickly since there is a lot to do. You don’t just turn it on and go. I made best use of the aircraft shelters during this to stay out of the sun.
Once they were launched, I managed to grab a shot of a VC-25 that was parked on the ramp before it was time to wrap up. (Unfortunately, the VC-25 launched just as I drove off base and, while I scurried to find a spot to get a picture of it in flight, I was still driving up the road as it flew overhead. Oh well.) My escort for the day, Sarah, did a great job of getting me where I wanted to be and I am grateful to here and everyone else for taking such good care of me. The article is in the August edition of the magazine so go to www.globalaviationresource.com if you want to buy a copy.