Battle Born


Words by Matt Willis

Part 1 of 2

A while back, Tim and I were scheduled to head out to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Wendover, UT, and shoot the annual Bonneville Speed Week event for the first time.

However, in the days leading up to the event, the weather near the flats quickly changed and the racing area became flooded as a result. Several competitors and teams that were already at the flats reported that the weather changed so fast, that they got stuck just trying to drive away. Unfortunate, because it was an event Tim and I were both really looking forward to covering.

But, I already the entire blocked off, so we did a quick reroute and came up with a last-minute 4-day road trip idea. We started north to Las Vegas, and then headed eastward to various stops in Arizona.

One of those stops was Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, AZ. I had always heard from a lot of the aviation photographers in Arizona that the base was fantastic to shoot at. Several soon-to-be-retired A-10C squadrons reside here as part of the 355th Fighter Wing, and it also serves as an auxiliary for attack and support helicopters such as the HH-60 Pavehawk and AH-64 Apache.

We arrived here on the third day of our trip, and one of the main points of interest was the PIMA Air and Space Museum, directly adjacent to the base. Also adjacent to the base was the 309th AMARG, known colloquially as “The Boneyard”, where thousands of retired and non-serviceable aircraft are stored.


A good portion of the PIMA facility is outdoors, and given it was over 100 degrees and extremely humid that day, there weren’t whole lot of people around.


The facility has a number of different hangars, filled with a vast variety of both production and experimental aircraft, ranging from the World War 2 era to the present.



This is one of three F-107 fighters built by North American in the 1950s. This entry lost the U.S. bid to the Republic F-105. The second of three F-107s is now at a Museum in Dayton, OH. The third was disassembled in 1960.

It’s staggering size could barely be captured by Tim’s fisheye lens, yet the SR-71 Blackbird is easily recognizable.

Designed for ultra high altitude, high-speed surveillance missions, this plane remains to be one of the most advanced leaps forward in aerospace technology – even today.

It had engines that could flex, expand, contract and change properties at various temperatures and pressures.


Now formally set to retire, the A-10 is one of the most fearsome attack aircraft around. This is one of the earliest “A” models, no longer in service.


The GAU-8 Avenger cannon, which the A-10’s purpose was centered around.

Also recently retired from service, the Lockheed S-3B Viking hits close to home. Many squadrons were based at North Island NAS in San Diego, and flew missions almost daily. I remember seeing them all the time as a kid when I would visit Coronado Island.

The S-3 runs and sounds more like a airline jet, with two wing mounted TF-34 turbofans. The modified cowling on the engines creates a bellowing sound when the thrust changed; it was always recognizable as the pilots would adjust power on approach.

The main point of the S-3 was mainly to detect and attack submarines. However, over time, the threat of submarines decreased, and the plane was outfitted to carry out other tasks.


The Bell AH-1 Cobra, a strike helicopter that was used by the Army widely in the Vietnam era. It has now been replaced by the more robust AH-64 Apache.


An early Grumman F-14 Tomcat variant.


The F-14 is widely accepted as one of the best fighters in world history, by pilots as well. It’s power and maneuverability were unparalleled at the time. The weapons it could use were even more advanced.




The museum also had some neat civilian aircraft as well.

The Beechcraft V35B was the famous “V” tailed variant of the regular Bonanza. Though it was also known for a lot of accidents, it’s design also made it one of the most agile light GA aircraft of it’s time. Many are still around today.

A Bede BD-5J Microjet. Love the idea, not sure if I trust the airframe…haha. Still cool to see in person.

Bell UH-1 Iroquois, known as the “Huey”, was another famous Vietnam-era helicopter.

Some strange helicopter I would never want to be in…


That’s it for this section. More to come from the outdoor restoration yard!

Thanks for reading!


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