Arizona Update – Week of: 1/13/2014 – 1/19/2014
Article and Photos by Steven Valinski
Friday morning I met up with some fellow aviation photographers at Luke AFB. The morning light is very nice this time of year and there are a few good AM locations to observe/photograph from around Luke AFB. Since Luke AFB is Viper country, we saw plenty of Vipers. We caught several squadrons arriving back from training sorties. The early arrivals include the 21st FS which is the ROCAF (Taiwan Air Force) training squadron. We also caught a few F-16’s with live munitions departing. Since they were carrying live bombs, they departed to the south of the base where it is less residential. As we were leaving, a KC-135 from McConnell AFB, arrived. We were no longer in a good position to photograph it with the light working against us, but I took some shots anyway. Thanks to some shadow recovery in Lightroom, the shots did not come out as bad as I expected.
As the afternoon arrived, we decided to travel to the other (east) side of the Valley of the Sun and see if there was any activity at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport. It turned out to be a typical weekend at “Willie” (formerly Williams AFB). We had AV-8B Harrier II’s from VMA-214 (the historically-famous “Black Sheep” squadron) out of MCAS Yuma stop in for a “gas ‘n’ go”. Some T-6’s were due in from Texas, but they cancelled shortly before they were expected to arrive. The interesting catch of the weekend was a Russian helicopter. A Ulan-Ude Mi-171 made an appearance. The Mi-171 is the Russian export version of the Mi-8/Mi-17. This one was commercially-owned. The “cool surprise” of the weekend was a Boeing F/A-18E Super Hornet from VFA-31 at NAS Oceana. We also had a USMC KC-130J in from VMGR-352 for a few days to do some night sorties (with flares).
With the MLK Holiday upon us, I did not expect much activity at all. I was pleasantly surprised with what I was able to catch.