Photos © Ruud Leeuw

USA Southwest 2008

Falcon Field Airport, Mesa (AZ)

Mesa Falcon airport
In my usual evaluation for a picture to start the webpage with, I could think of nothing more suitable than this one. This yellow Hummer is well-known here and we had the good fortune to be driven around in the blistering heat by Bob Reid, former owner of Royal Aviation. And indeed: we were treated like Royalty!

First stop is Marsh Aviation...
Marsh Aviation is an aircraft rebuilder established at Mesa, AZ in the mid 1970s to convert piston-powered aircraft to turboprop power. The company's first projects involved fitting Rockwell Thrush Commander agricultural aircraft with Garrett AiResearch TPE-331 engines. Later, the firm also re-engined Gulfsteam Turbo Cats, Beech Turbo Mentors and Grumman S-2 Trackers with Garrett engines. [Source: Wikipedia]
Marsh Aviation

HU-16E N115FB (G-462) was registered to United Capital Corp of Illinois on R03Feb96. It was reported here, stored, on 18Jul04. It looks ready to go.

Chalk's International Airlines, formerly Chalk's Ocean Airways, was an airline based in Fort Lauderdale, FL. It operated scheduled seaplane services to the Bahamas. Its main base was Miami Seaplane Base (MPB) until 2001, when it move to Ft.Lauderdale. Its operating license was revoked after one of their aircraft crashed on 19Dec05.
So this HU-16E is probably still configured as an airliner, must be nice to own one.

I later read an update (Feb.2017) on the WIX (Warbirds) forum: "I have seen three Albatrosses at the Marsh Aviation facility in Mesa,AZ (Falcon Field).
The one in Chalk's livery is in fact a G-111; it is N115FB, Grumman serial no. G-462 (incorrectly reg'd as HU-16E Navy serial no. 148327) and either way the 3rd to the last Albatross built by Grumman in 1961 - but of course as a G-111 it was officially rebuilt and re-certified as a zero-time "new" aircraft in the 1979 - 1983 time frame.
As far as I can tell, it never served with the USCG so it can't be an HU-16E in any case."


From the WIX (Warbirds) forum - dated 31Jan2017:

"As of just this month, 7 of the 13 Grumman G-111 conversions have been saved from scrapping and bought by a guy with a dream in Hannibal, MO.
All of the G-111 Albatrosses that have been stored in Marana, AZ for the past 30 years without ever really being used or flown in commercial service since their conversion were obtained by Marsh Aviation a few years back to use in their 'Wildfire' water bomber conversion project which among other mods were going to replace the R-1820 radial engines with TPE331 series turboprops.
However, now it seems that Marsh has abandoned those plans and was all set to scrap these 7 G-111 aircraft - until Mike Barron of Barron Aviation Private Flight Services and the Rapid Descent Jump School in Hannibal, MO stepped in and bought up the entire lot!
Now it is reported that he has just 18 months to make them airworthy enough to ferry back to Missouri (or presumably disassemble and truck them back) to keep them away from the scrap man! (The aviation equivalent of a boogeyman!)

Hats off to Mike! I'm sure that we all wish him and his crew the best of luck!

More on the story here:

The aircraft in question are:

N112FB - registered as a 1979 Grumman model G-111 serial number 148328 (the 2nd to last UF-2 / HU-16 ever built and served with the JMSDF as no. 9055) it is really Grumman factory serial no. G-463 This one is the 'dark horse' or 'black sheep' of the G-111 family because apparently it never received the new titanium spar caps which granted the other aircraft indefinite service lives; because it retains the 7075-T6 Aluminum spar caps, it is officially limited to 8,900 flight hours.

N113FB - registered as a 1953 Grumman model HU-16E (there is no such thing - the first UF-2G / HU-16E conversion done for the USCG was started in December 1956 and not finished until April 1957) it was really a 1951 model SA-16A (HU-16A) USAF serial no. 51-7244 and Grumman serial no. G-332 that was later converted as a long-wing USAF SA-16B (HU-16B conversion project no. 56B) that later went to the USCG as no. 7244 but it now should be registered as a 1979 - 1983* Grumman G-111 (*since it was one of the last 9 G-111 conversions at St. Augustine FL under PC no. 1050, it is most likely a 1981 - 1983 model.)

N116FB - registered as a 1961 Grumman model G-111 (once again there is no such thing) it was really another ex-JMSDF model UF-2 (no. 9052) that was contracted through the US Navy as Bu. no. 148325 in 1961 but all along it was really Grumman factory serial no. G-460.
It was one of the first 4 G-111 conversions done at Stuart, FL under PC no. 23 in the 1979 - 1980 time frame.

N118FB - currently registered as a 1960 Grumman model G-111 (ditto) it was really one of the Grumman design no. G-231 series built as models CSR-110 for the RCAF with the R-1820-82 QEC's to give it engine commonality with that services other Grumman S2F series Tracker aircraft.
In the RCAF it was no. 9304 but it is really Grumman factory serial no. G-452 and it was one of the 'later' PC no. 1050 conversions done at St. Augustine, FL.

N119FB - currently registered as a 1960 Grumman model G-111 (ditto) it was an RCAF 'sister ship' of N118FB during which time it was RCAF serial no. 9308; it is really Grumman factory serial no. G-456 and was also a 'later' PC 1050 conversion at St. Augustine.

N122FB - currently registered incorrectly as a 1953 Grumman model HU-16E (again there is no such thing) it was really built originally as a short-wing USAF model SA-16A (HU-16A) with that service's serial no. 51-7168 but Grumman factory serial no. G-218. It was later converted to a long-wing SA-16B (HU-16B) for the USAF as Grumman project no. 74B (the 74th long-wing B model conversion done for the USAF.)
I have no specific record that it was ever transferred to the USCG as a model HU-16E but this registration does tend to suggest that it was - where it was presumably identified as serial no. 7168. It was another 'later' G-111 conversion in St. Augustine under PC 1050.

N125FB - currently registered as a 1956 Grumman model HU-16E, it was really built in 1956 as a short-wing US Navy model UF-1 (HU-16C) Grumman factory serial no. G-432 and USN Bu. 141282.
It was the 28th long-wing model G-211 conversion done for the USN (i.e. project no. 28D) but once again I have no record that it was ever transferred to the USCG as anything - which is supported by the fact that even though technically incorrect for purposes of civilian registration, it is still identified by its former USN Bu. no. 141282. "


No markings except faded '227'?
Tailnumber N211MC has been applied in small lettering
I could use some help in identifying the plain, metallic HU-16 on the left..
On the right is N211MC, which is a Grumman HU-16B with c/n G-174 (ex/ 51- 5292). At some point it was listed as belonging to the CAF Museum elsewhere on this airport. Previous to that (2002) it was registered to Hoosier Warbird Inc., but presently N211MC is not current on the Registry, sale reported to one Floyd Stillwell.
Bob Reid was able to help with additional details:

N211MC, that SA-16, was donated to a museum and they could not accept it. Floyd Stillwell is also the owner of Marsh Aviation.. Then that silver SA-16 ('227?') was to be converted to a fire bomber and fitted with turboprop motors.. But that was 15 years ago and I guess it just never happened.

George Armstrong sent me this info in Aug08:
"The two Albatross at Mesa I believe are as follows-
The all metal one is c/n 309, ex USCG 7227, N70263, Marsh Aviation stored at Mesa.
And the white one is G-174 ex 51-5292, N211MC, Comm. AF, at Mesa, reg'd to BARNSTORMERS Inc."

I later read an update (Feb.2017) on the WIX (Warbirds) forum: "... I have identified is registered to Marsh as N70263, 'HU-16 serial no. 7227' - but it is really an HU-16E (built originally in 1953 as an Air Force SA-16A and later transferred to the Coast Guard and then converted to a long-wing design no. G-234 as project no. 13C (the 13th long-wing conversion done for the USCG.)
It is actually Grumman serial no. G-309 and it is the one in any photos you find that is completely bare and unpainted."

Trackers for conversion
When CAL FIRE decided in the mid-1990's to upgrade from S-2A to S-2T airtankers.
In 1987, CAL FIRE had entered into an agreement with Marsh Aviation of Mesa to build a prototype S-2T. This prototype was placed in service and used at several bases. The success of the prototype led to acquisition of 26 S-2E/G aircraft in 1996. The "E/G" series S-2 was larger and newer. It could haul 1200 gallons of retardant with two TPE-331 GR Turboprop engines at speeds in excess of 200 knots.
A contract for building 23 of the new S-2T airtankers was entered into. Thirteen were delivered by the end of 2002. Seven additional were delivered and placed in service by the end of 2004. The final three were scheduled to be completed and delivered by June 30, 2005. As the new airtankers are delivered and placed in service the original S-2A's were retired.

Click the above image for a presentation of the airframes parked here in this yard.
Airframes included (a.o.) S-2F-1 N736MA/154, N746MA/155, 136737/40, 136740/43, 136743/44, .../24, /180, /155, .../13, N147MA 'Turbo Tracker', 136668, unmarked HU-16, two OV-10 fuselages and something marked AF68-799/SR 'Raven'.

531323 / N53ST
On part of the airfield was N53ST, a Douglas C-47A (c/n 9380), registered to Prescott DC3 Inc., 30Nov99.
It was based at nearby Prescott, as the name implies. I have a 2006 photo of it there.
Bob could update me on this too: "N53ST was donated by the Prescott owner to the new warbird museum being formed here at Falcon Field; I will try to find out  more for you." By Feb.2010 it was still registered to Prescott DC3 Inc.
531323 / N53ST
531323 / N53ST

Glory Days

N57123 was registered to Aviation Enterprises Inc. during Oct96. It has been based/parked here for years now, at least since 1997.
It has been rumored to have been flying for the CIA or DEA with tailnumbers N6059U and NN4443Y, though these tailnumbers apparently were never officially registered with the FAA.
Bob Reid came to the rescue with added details: "N57123 was a DEA airplane, it lost both motors in South America or maybe it was in Mexico..?? Not sure which.
Floyd Stillwell, the owner of Marsh Aviation, saved it and put two new motors and props on it to bring it back to Falcon Field. Floyd claims they never paid him. The DEA still believes it belongs to them! Actually, it belongs to the US Navy and was on bailment to the CAF when it was picked up by a microburst around 1998 and went flying without a pilot for a few hundred yards... CAF guys were going to fix it but lost interest.. hence back parked at Floyd's until...???"

Update 28March2010: "this DC-3 is suddenly gone from in front of Marsh Aviation, don't know where it went.." In June 2010 James Gaffey sent me photo evidence of it snew location; Oshkosh,WI.
Photo on my Photo by Friends & Guests Page 26.


Propliners at Mesa-Falcon
On the other side of the airfield: more propliners!

Work in progress, in spite of the blistering heat!

C-47A N844TH has been registered to Fly One LLC since 29Apr98, with an adress in Las Cruces,NM.
It still wears the ex/ Air North titles 'Yukon Musher'.
Bob wrote me in August when I compiled this page: "N844TH belongs to former America West pilot Terry Herbert. He was going to put it on a FAA charter certificate, but this never seemed to pan out for him. He is still trying to put it to work". [UPDATE: N844TH was reg'd to Terry L. Herbert on 10Jan2014].

On 10Aug16 registered to Basler Turbo Conversions, possibly a future project for conversion to turbo engines. N844TH has spent the last decade at Mesa-Falcon Field but perhaps Terry Herbert has given up on it..? I don't think he ever used it to start up commercial charter flights with N844TH. (EMAIL)

In july 2016 it was sighted at Oshkosh with Basler.

Boya and their toys Bob knew the owner and we got to talking, When I asked about the outlook, of 'when & what' this C-47A (c/n 13070) was going to do, I received non-committal replies. Maybe some day..?
See link to update below!

Slow progress
Yukon Musher

Stored propliners
Across the field, near the DC-3, are some classic Skytrucks parked...

Douglas C-54B N67017 (c/n 10438/169) has been registered to Air Response since 28May86. Before that it was owned by Aircraft Specialties Inc (bought 1975 from the military, which had it stored in Mar70, flown by the US Navy with serial 39122).
That nose must be of a different C-54 as the 1978 photo by Ron Mak at Mesa's Falcon Field shows obvious nose damage!

Bob wrote me: "All of the C-54's belong to Gene Packard. I should have searched him out and introduced him to you; he is not well due to his age. Gene gave me my first job working at Biegert Aviation in 1959..
The C-54's, according to his son Eddie, will all be scrapped, though one may go to the CAF."

An update sent 28May2013 provided the info and images it was being scrapped and removed; see Bob Reid's photos on Photos by Friends & Guests (37).

Both N67017 and N67019 I found partly scrapped at Greybull,WY upon my visit in Oct.2014; MY REPORT
I found that the cockpit of N67019 had moved in a different direction: to Houma,LA (see Ken Swartz gallery hosted on my website)

N99AS is also a former US Navy plane, serialled 56549. This C-54D has c/n 22203/655 and was registered as N99AS to Aircraft Specialties Inc on 31Dec75. Globe Air Inc bought it on 02Feb81 and Air Response Inc purchased it on 28May86. It saw use as a sprayer, fighting budworm etc
I have it presently listed with the Commemorative Air Force, Arizona Wing here at Falcon Field.
On 18Feb2010 it was registered to Brooks Fuel of Fairbanks,AK.
In March 2010 Chris Pasley published images of N99AS being scrapped...
N99AS scrapped at Mesa-Falcon Field
Chris wrote with that image:
"While I was there taking pictures I started talking with one of the gentleman, who was working on the plane and I was able to find out its fate & destination.
The guy, who I was talking to, was there with his Dad (he was the one taking the nose section and from what I am told his dad owns a very large hanger in Seattle, WA and he is going to suspend the nose section in a corner of the hanger and convert it into a guest bedroom! The aircraft had already been slated for scrap so it was nice to see at least a portion of the aircraft saved....."
Link to N99AS image at Chris' account.


Douglas C-54B N67019 (c/n 10520/251), registered to Air Response since 08Jul86. Ex/ US Navy 50865 (designated R5D-2); manufactured in 1945 and stored in 1972.
Bought by Air Specialties Inc in 1975 and flown with airtanker identification '157'.

Both N67017 and N67019 I found partly scrapped at Greybull,WY upon my visit in Oct.2014; MY REPORT


Propliners stored

DC-4 Sprayer

N438NA N438NA is a C-54G with c/n 36031/578.
When the USAF (45-0578) got tired of it, it was transferred to NASA Jul62; NASA 238 was assigned to it, reregistered as NASA 438 in 1964.
It became N438NA in 1969.

Aircraft Specialties bought it Mar81, through Globe Air Inc (09Jul81) it came to Air Response Inc on 06Mar86.
As one can see it has also been converted as a sprayer.

Equipped with the spray booms, it was used to spray oil spills with an enzyme a few years back, when the owner Gene Packard had the contract to do that.

At some point I made the mistake of confusing Air Response Inc and (current) Int'l Air Response... Aad van der Voet (of wrote me the following correction:
"As Bob Reid already mentioned, the aircraft at Falcon Field belong to Gene Packard.
Gene (full name Richard Eugene Packard) is somewhat of an icon in the airtanker/sprayer world. He started off in the 1950s/1960s, when he co-founded Aircraft Specialties Inc., together with Abe Sellards. They flew DC-4s, B-17s, Harpoons and Connies out of Falcon Field, mainly on spraying contracts.
In 1981 Gene reorganised that company into the well-known Globe Air, also based at Falcon Field. Globe Air went into voluntary liquidation in 1985, and their fleet was sold at the famous Globe Air auction in October 1985.
But Gene didn't stop there, because a year later he established his third company... This was Air Response Inc. (without the International bit), which was formed as a family business by Gene and his son Ed. They took over some of the former Globe Air DC-4s and Harpoons, and continued to operate them out of Falcon Field.

So it was Gene Packard who purchased the Falcon Field DC-4s from MASDC stock in the mid to late 1970s, and he still owns them today. First as Aircraft Specialties Inc., then as Globe Air Inc, and now as Air Response Inc.

T&G Aviation or International Air Response Inc. have nothing to do with any of the aircraft at Falcon Field. T&G was formed in 1973, and operated out of Chandler-Memorial Airport. In 1997 they were reorganised as International Air Response Inc. and moved to Coolidge,AZ a short time later. No connection to Falcon Field at all."

N438NA was registered to Roger Brooks of Fairbanks,AK on 18Feb10; maybe it will start a new future as a fuel hauler...
Update: N438NA was noted at Brooks Fuel in Fairbanks 27Jun11, but not yet taken into service.


Tailnumber N7286C has faded on this Lockheed PV-2/L-15 Harpoon and also from the registry...
It has c/n 15-1095 and its military serial was 37129.
In 1950 this Lockheed Harpoon joined the vast numbers of stored aircraft at nearby Litchfield Park. In Feb66 Aircraft Specialties Inc converted it into an agricultural sprayer. Globe Air Inc bought it 1981 and while sold at an auction in 1985 (to Southwest Aviation Inc., and to Quarry Products in May88)), it has remained here at Falcon Field since 1977.
It was offered for sale in Jun96, for usd 20.000

Bob Reid had this update in Aug.2008: "N7286C belongs to Gene Packard; his son Eddie tells me they are going to cut it up..."



Now this PV-2 Harpoon N7454C (15-1599) looks in much better shape. Its tailnumber is no longer valid, but this one belongs to Robert Kropp. This is Ex US Navy with BuNo 37633.

Robert Kropp is the Director of aircraft acquisitions and restoration for the Wingspan Aviation Heritage Foundation of Mesa. In July 2008 he was interviewed about two stolen, and thankfully retrieved, vintage aircraft wings which belonged to two 1940s and 1950s Lockheed aircraft, a T-33 trainer and a PV-2. Robert received an anonymous tip which he in turn relayed to the police.
Robert was quoted saying: '..the PV-2 Navy bomber was in extremely short supply, only 555 PV-2 planes were built and a mere 35 exist today'


All that remains...
This may well be the last remains of C-118A XA-TDR... All is explained HERE...


PV-2 Harpoon N7273C (c/n 15-1177) was registered on 23Sep03 to Kermit A Weeks of Polk City,FL. Bob told me not too long ago a crew was here to ferry her to Florida but a technical snag prevented that.

After its storage at Litchfield Park, this PV-2 was registered N7273C in 1957. Aircraft Specialties bought it in 1966 and converted it for agricultural use as a sprayer. In 1981 it went to Globe Air Inc but this Harpoon found itself stored here at Mesa for periods since 1976. It was sold to an undisclosed person at a public auction in 1985, but remained here.

But N7273C was never collected by Mr Weeks' crew, it never flew down to Florida... Instead it was reg'd 26Apr2010 to the Palm Springs Air Museum in California; and I found a 2010 image here at its new home: HERE - Two years before I visited the Palm Springs Air Museum, see HERE my report.



Bob Reid
Bob Reid owns several aircraft on display in this museum, including this MiG fighter !

B-17 Flying Fortress
Sentimental Journey
Boeing B-17G 44-83514 (N9323Z, c/n 32155) "Sentimental Journey"

B-25 Mitchell bomber

While I took my photos, Bob had no cause to be bored as everyone was eager to say 'hi' to him and talk 'shop'... But boy, it was hot inside this hangar! My spouse, not overly interested in aeroplanes and certainly no fan of high temperatures, did not know where to hide from these hellish temperatures..
That nose art 'Maid in the Shade' was certainly appropriate, but what if it is hot in the shade too..?!
But the museum concluded my visit and soon we found refuge in the motel's swimmingpool.

Lockheed L-15-27-01/PV-2 Harpoon N86492 (c/n 15-1473) - ex/ BuNo.37507, N6643D.

I leave you with this presentation of aircraft in the museum, click the above image...

Aircraft inventory of the 'Arizona Wing CAF',
(Bob Ogden, 2007 Air-Britain)

Falcon Field (KFFZ) on
Commemmorative Air Force (CAF), Arizona Wing

Reference books used:
Aviation Museums and Collections of North America - Bob Ogden (Air-Britain, 2007)
Piston Engined Airliner Production List - J.Roach & A.B.Eastwood (TAHS, 2007)
The Lockheed Twins - Peter J. Marson (Air-Britain, 2001)

Thanks to Bob Reid, for his time and insights

The Road Goes On... back to US Southwest 2008

Reactions / comments welcomed.