[Military Plane Spotting] Luke Air Force Base (Glendale, Arizona, U.S.)

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Our business conference was held in Las Vegas, roughly a 7 hours drive to Tucson. To make the most out of this trip, we decided to stop near Phoenix. More exactly: the Luke Air Force Base, located in Glendale (*). 

Around Phoenix, prices for hotel rooms were fairly high, but thanks to the online booking tools, we managed to book a decent but still pricey hotel for the night. Thanks to the spotter community, we managed to get hold of ‘the recommended spotting locations’. Once more, be extra careful, do not put yourself at risk, abide by the rules and stay on public domain, watch out for traffic, stay away from installation fences and never trespass any grounds (military or private). For the record, (source and credit) we found the Airwings spotter guide for Luke Air Force Base very useful along with engaging with local spotters community.

Caution : These are military installations, respect signs in places and law enforcement instructions, do not trespass. Do not go too close to fences and installations. Remain on public roads and lookout for traffic. © Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet

We started out the day at 8:00 on the main road around the base. Few spotters were onsite. Around 9:30 we started to hear ‘music to our ears’ and the engines starting along with planes lining up. It started with F-16’s then F-35’s. Many planes were practicing and doing ‘touch and go’. Most of the take-offs seemed missions lasting approximately an hour or so. We could witness many F-35’s and some F-16’s. Knowing that the F-35 will be soon part of the Belgian Air Force, it was stunning to see the latest technology airborne as previously, we had only seen the Italian Air Force F-35 arrival and on static at Sanicole Airshow last year along with a static F-35 at El Centro Airshow.

We were ideally placed, on public domain, at the beginning of runway 21R. We had amazing shots of incoming aircraft; from formation dismissal, approach, final approach and landing.

© Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet

We then moved around the base, using public streets to capture the take offs.

On that day at noon, the Thunderbirds were announced to fly over Phoenix during the memorial services for U.S. Air Force Col. (ret.) Roger Parrish.

Excerpt from their press release “The United States Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron “Thunderbirds” will perform a ceremonial flyover during the memorial services for U.S. Air Force Col. (ret.) Roger Parrish, at approximately 11:30 a.m. over Phoenix, Ariz., March 22, 2019.

The formation will feature four F-16 Fighting Falcons, the Air Force’s premier multi-role fighter aircraft, soaring over the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona.

Col. Parrish led a distinguished career as a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot from 1957 to 1983 including an assignment as the Thunderbirds’ Commander/Leader from 1973 to 1974″.

Spotters onsite were hoping to see them too but the base was not on their flight plan. Thus the Thunderbirds encounter would be as planned at the “Thunder and Lightning Over Arizona” Airshow at the Davis Monthan Air Force Base. 

Around 3pm, most of the spotters left due to lower activities and most probably the commute to Tucson for the next adventure. The journey from the Luke Air Base to Tucson is over 2 hours. We recommend opt for free ‘one way rental’ and once done at the Airshow drop the car at the Airport. Then head back to Europe via Los Angeles Airport (2 hours flight from Tucson International Airport) or just move onto your next Air Museum or Airshow.

(*) Luke Air Force Base (IATA: LUF, ICAO: KLUF, FAA LID: LUF) is a United States Air Force base located 7 miles (6.1miles, 11 kilometers) west of the central business district of Glendale, in Maricopa County, Arizona, United States. It is about 15 miles (24 kilometers) west of Phoenix, Arizona.

Luke AFB is a major training base of the Air Education and Training Command (AETC), training pilots in the F-16 Fighting Falcon. On 31 March 2011 it was announced that the F-35 Lightning II would replace the F-16 as the primary training aircraft at Luke, although the date of deployment of the new aircraft to Luke and reorganization plans were not communicated. On 16 July 2013, the Air Force announced that Luke AFB will house a total of 144 F-35A Lightning IIs.

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