Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport – 11-29-2013

Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport – 11-29-2013

Article and Photos by Steven Valinski

With the passing of Turkey Day, and, what is officially referred to as, a “holiday weekend” upon us, I figured the military action would be non-existent this weekend. When a friend contacted me to let me know that some East-Coast Harriers were in at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, I did not hesitate to grab my gear and head to the airport.

When I arrived, there were several Harriers there that were based out of MCAS Cherry Point in North Carolina. Several of the Harriers were from Marine Attack Training Squadron 203 (VMAT-203) “Hawks” and one was from Marine Attack Squadron 223 (VMA-223) “Bulldogs”. These aircraft are part of a detachment currently training out of NAF El Centro and MCAS Yuma. These East-Coast Harriers come out West a few times per year to get some training in. My guess is, and it’s only a guess, is that this group wanted to get some work in over the holiday and NAF El Centro and MCAS Yuma closed their bases for Thanksgiving.

The intriguing aspect of the VMAT-203 Harriers is that, being a training squadron, they fly the two-seated TAV-8B Harriers. While unique, the only word I can think of to describe the way these Harriers look is: “funky”. The TAV-8B Harrier is the two-seat training version of the AV-8B Harrier. The TAV-8B’s have the same cockpit and digital readout as a standard AV-8B, but they are not combat capable.

I stayed at the airport for a few hours to shoot these aircraft in decent light. I was very fortunate to catch them when I did because it appears they left Friday evening or early Saturday.

KIWA 11-29-2013

6 thoughts on “Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport – 11-29-2013”

    1. Yes, I didn’t realize it at the time, but they never came back. Apparently they were out a few times on Friday so the assumption was that they were going to stay for the weekend…but they never came back.

  1. You know Steve, this is so wrong on so many levels, LOL. Here you are getting all this action and Dave and I are as dry as a bone here in Texas with nothing to shoot.

    All kidding aside, excellent images. And I have to agree with Dave, the mountains just add to them.


    1. Thanks Bill! Fortunately, the action is typically steady around here until the summer. Then I have to travel to Luke AFB, Davis-Monthan AFB, or MCAS Yuma to find activity. ,