Airports of Phoenix and the Valley of the Sun
There are few places on earth where the weather is better for flying than Arizona. In fact, during World War 2 dozens of fields were set up in the Phoenix area to train tens of thousands of airmen from countries all over the world. This was the first boom that was to lead to the population explosion that is now Phoenix. These men came, saw and liked the place. After the war, many stayed or came back.
Airports in the Valley of the Sun..... But this is not about people and population. This page is about airports and airfields. The question is "How many airports have there been in the Phoenix area?" When I say "airport" I use the term loosely. The criteria used here to count as an airport is any named airfield, past or present, marked on aeronautical charts or listed in official directories, within a radius of about 30 nautical miles of downtown Phoenix. This includes large airports with huge terminals, regional airports, and even small ones with unpaved landing strips and few or no facilities. This does not include unmarked, unnamed landing strips used by private small planes, or heliports, or ultralight fields. To be honest, as far as I can tell from the photos here, the only difference between some of these "airports" and cow pastures is that the pastures have cows.
This is a large image that shows most of the airfields mentioned on this page. Everybody knows Sky Harbor, one of the biggest and busiest airports in the US and on this planet. Other airports in the Phoenix areas are also well known, such as Falcon Field, Scottsdale Airpark, Goodyear and Williams Gateway. And there is Luke Air Force Base, the largest military airport in the world. But what about Airhaven and Paradise Airports, both well known in the 1950s? And how many people remember Phoenix Municipal Airport on Christy Road, the Van Buren airport, or South Phoenix airport? Or Central Phoenix Airport? Or Roanoke Airport at Thomas and Central? Then there is Tempe Airport. Does anyone know anything about Granite airport, or Saguaro airfield? The list of dead and forgotten airfields in and around Phoenix goes on and on...
So how many were there? Ten? twenty, thirty? forty? fifty? sixty? seventy? Seventy airports is about right, by my count. No less, maybe more and I'm sure I missed a few. The chart here shows about 85 airplane symbols, but a few are unconfirmed, duplicates or wild guesses. We will say the number is 70. (Update: That was written in mid-2007. As of August 2008, the number of old airfields around Phoenix is close to 90!)
Using Google Earth, and some material I have collected, I have put together a map of these airfields. I had classified all airfields into four categories, based upon size and status. Existing airports are divided into large (marked with a yellow airplane), medium sized airports (green plane) and small airfields (blue plane). These are marked by color on the map at their approximate location.
The most interesting airfields are those that are gone, marked with the pink biplane. These are airfields that were abandoned, deemed unusable, or built over. Traces of some are still visible, but most of them have disappeared - victims of urban growth - leaving no signs anywhere that planes and runways once took to the skies from those places.
My basic, initial sources for this page were: a. 1975 aeronautical chart from US Defense mapping Agency Aerospace Center (picked up at a garage sale), b. 1943 Phoenix aeronautical chart (bought on Ebay), and c. a list of airfields in the 1947 Arizona Highways magazine. I then started looking in "airport" newspaper clipping files at different libraries. And there is the Internet, which is great, but for the most part had little to offer (with the exception of the three sites listed below). Another resource are my own memories that go back about 50-55 years.
All airfields, past and present, in the Valley of the Sun
Well, most of them, anyway, in alphabetical order....
Airhaven Airport - Not many people know there was an airport at Indian School and 35th Ave, just east of Grand Avenue. Listed in 1947 Arizona Highways Magazine as having a 3000 ft soft runway. Charter service, flight instruction and meals available. It even had a terminal. I didn't know it myself until I saw a postcard on Ebay for Airhaven Airport. I bought it. The trouble was that the picture was of the old 1940s terminal at Sky Harbor, bell tower and all. It was a stupid mistake by whoever printed the postcard. I guess back then Phoenix was so unknown that the printer didn't even know the name of the airport. Anyway, one of the reasons for this page is that postcard. A 1958 article in the Arizona Highways magazine, talking about aviation in Arizona, mentions that Sky Harbor had 250 small aircraft stationed at that airport, while Paradise (Sunnyslope) and Airhaven had 150 planes between them.
Airhaven Glendale - Same name as the one down on Grand Ave and Indian School Road, but built soon after the other disappeared. It was just north of Olive and about 80th Avenue (Coord: 33.34.13/112.13.49). Established in the mid 1940s (?) as Isbell Construction Company airfield, it later became Glendale Municipal Airport (even though it was in Peoria!) but then was abandoned in the mid 1980s when a "new" Glendale Airport was built. It was too small, tucked into a corner of a block near Grand Avenue and Olive. Almost all the old abandoned urban area airfields have been plowed up, torn down and covered with homes and buildings. This airfield field is unique because it is still there: runway, hangers and all. In the 1984 chart it is called Glendale and has a 2400 ft runway.
Air-topia - Love the name. Listed in 1947 Az Highways, Coordinates: 33.23.15/112.08.30 6.2 miles SW of Phoenix. This would put it around Southern Avenue between 35th and 39th Avenue. 2400 ft soft runway. Had repair facilities and served by a metropolitan bus line. Freeman (*) puts it at the Southeast corner of 43rd Street (really 'Avenue') and West Southern. Update: I found it on a 1958 Dept of Agriculture aerial survey, right where it was suppossed to be. The name reminds me of the Autopia motel on Van Buren Street.
Apache Junction. - I had seen this listed, but had no location. The coordinates I first had put it further East. I looked for it put didn't find it. Chris Kennedy has sent me a scan of the March 1949 Sectional Chart showing this airfield.
Asylum - at SE of 24th Street and Van Buren, I understand. It is more often referred to as Van Buren Airport. At one time there was a landing strip across from and just south of the Insane Asylum. This airport operated in the early 1920s. It must have been very near to Sky Harbor and was deactivated as the latter was built in 1925 and then purchased by the City of Phoenix in 1928. I have found an aerial photo of the area from the 1930s showing the field where the 'airport' was located. Note: I have seen comments that indicate that some people believe that Van Buren airport is what Sky Harbor was called before being purchased by the Phoenix. I disagree; I think these were two different airfields. Oh yes, speaking of Van Buren, I have a page about this most infamous street here:
Bar Hart Airfield - A 2400 ft soft airfield in North Phoenix. Listed as "Not Usable" in 1984 chart. I understand it was somewhere near 51st Avenue and Beardsley, but I don't even know where I got that information. I looked for this for 2 months and it was right there in front of me all the time. It is the field less than a mile diagonally Southeast of Thunderbird. I had spotted it many times, I even considered that it may have been a landing site, but I thought it was part of the old Thunderbird Airfield complex closeby. You can see it in many of the pictures for that airport.
Beardsley Airfield - At one time both Luke and Williams had at least six auxiliary fields each around the Valley. Luke Auxiliary #2 was also known as Beardsley Airfield. It was just a little farther north on Grande Avenue.
Brenteson Airfield - This is an obscure airstrip in the Kyrene area. It was, I think, a company field located South of Warner between Kyrene and Hardy. I have put the coordinates into Google Earth and the picture shows its supposed location. This airfield was not on an aeronautical chart, but a reference listing of airports in Arizona. Did it exist? Yes, it did! I found it on a 1972 photo. By 2007 only the runway is left, but it is just one very long parking lot. This may be the same as the Kyrene Airfield that existed in the general area - except that Kyrene Airport may have been South of Ray Road, on the east side of the railroad tracks, while Brenteson Airfield is south of Warner on the west side of the tracks. Here it is in the 1985 chart. As you see, Sanders is gone and only Brenteson is left in the area. No sign of the Kyrene airfield. Update: I think this and Kyrene are one and the same. They never appear together and they both have identical altitude data.
Cactus Airstrip - Listed in 1947 Az Highways, Coordinates: 33.36.00/112.02.30, which would put it near 18th St and Thunderbird, on Larkspur Drive. 3500' Runway. A Sunnyslope community resource says it was at the Northeast corner of Cactus and Cave Creek. Update: I found it on an old 1950s map. This airfield was also known as North Phoenix Airport and was at Cave Creek and Cactus Road. It is marked on the 1946 chart as both North Phoenix and Cactus.
Carefree Airport - Also called Sky Ranch in Carefree Airport. A nice little airport in a nice area. I understand that people even fly in, park the plane, pick up a cart, go golfing and then fly off back into the wild blue yonder.
Casablanca Airport- At the Casablanca resort, of course. Used in the 1950s by the rich and famous staying at the Casablanca resort. This simple strip operated from the early 1950s to the early 1960s NE of Chaparral Road at 66th Street in Scottsdale serving the Casablanca resort. It is also in a 1949 photo but is much clearer and improved in the 1958 picture.
Cattleman's International Airport- Not really. Actually this is from an email I received and may not the the landing strip he mentions. Flyer Duncan writes: There was an old dirt strip ENE of Tempe, and WNW of Mesa consisting of one runway running SE-NW. I used it in 1968. Some called it "Cattleman's International Airport" as a joke. It was north of the Salt River, and possibly at the south end of the Pima Res. Any idea what this was?
I replied: "Cattlemans" could that have been the Auxiliary Field for Falcon. Chris Kennedy mentions it as WNW of Falcon. I checked a 1958 photo and I found 2 possibles in Hayden/McDowell area but both are Sw-NE and they are too far west. Both you and Chris indicate it would be further East and running SE-NW. Of course, the time frames are different (WW2, 1958 and 1967). The two "?" in the pictures may not be the same, or may not even be landing strips. What do you think? Old airfields keep turning up! (See Falcon Auxiliary below).
Later: Did more research. This airfield appears on 1956 map as a landing strip, but not on 1949 pictures of the area, so not the WW2 Falcon Field auxiliary. I looked for it in 1968 aerial photos but it was gone, plowed up. It may have been called the "Motorola Airfield" because of the plant next to it. I really can't say much about this one.
Central Airport - Also called South Central Airport, Central Phoenix Airport or even Port Phoenix (in the telephone directories, at least!). A major airport in the early days, during the 1920s, with a 2600 foot dirt runway. It was one of Phoenix's earliest and most important airfields, receiving many of the famous planes and aviators that came through Arizona in the 1920s. Located at 1601 S. Central, which would put it at between Cocopah and Mohave on Central Avenue, on the East side, just north what was then Riverside Park and is now the I-17 freeway. The 1931 Dept of Commerce Directory says: Phoenix, Central airport, commercial, rating, ---, One mile S on main highway. Altitude 1080 feet, Retangular, 2640 by 1320 feet, dirt,. rolling, natural drainage. Pole lines to E. S., and W., trees to E. Facilities for servicing aircraft, day only." The Salvation Army has a building on the site now. I have seen no record of it after the 1930s. It was the home of Desert Airways. I have found an aerial photo of the area in the 1930s that shows where this airfield was.
Chandler Airpark. What? Who? Where the heck was Chandler Airpark? I have seen references to this one, by this name, but I think they really were referring to the Chandler Municipal Airport. Maybe.
Another airfield on which I have no information. Is this the same as Chandler Airpark? Riggs Airfield? Patterson Field? Update: Found it. It was at Pecos and Val Vista, directly west of Ray Schnepf. Could it be Chandler Heights? Yes, it is! By 2007 Pecos Road has been re-routed and only minimal traces are left, soon to be buried under houses.
Chandler Metropolitan - I am confused. Google Earth shows this right next to Williams Gateway Airport (see image). Is this right? This is probably another one of those Google mistakes. There is, I think, no such thing as Chandler International Metropolitan airport. Somehow it got on a database list and the Google people put it into their system and now it lives on.
Chandler Municipal This is a nice small but growing airport in the Southeast Valley. I have not found time to visit it yet.
Chandler Municipal (old) - There was another Chandler Municipal airport at a different location, as listed in the 1931 Dept of Commerce Directory, according to information provided by Chris Kennedy. "It says: Two miles South, altitude 1,150 feet, 80 acres, 2640 by 1,320 feet, dirt, level, natural drainage. One small hanger, aviation fuel, day or night." This is almost certainly not the same field as the current Chandler Airport, which opened after WW2. The original Chandler airport closed in the early 1930s. This is one of only four airports listed for Phoenix area in the 1929 directory, the others being Phoenix Municipal (Christy), Sky harbor, and the Fairgrounds.
Christy Airfield - This is the name usually used to refer to the original Phoenix Municipal Airport, purchased by the city in 1925 on Christy Road at lateral 18 (now NE of McDowell and 59th Avenue) way out in the boondocks. It had hangers and a terminal, which was still around for decades as a house at 5920 W. McDowell. For some reason it didn't work out so in 1928 they bought 240 acres on 24th Street, south of Washington, which later became known as Sky Harbor, but was usually called the farm. I tried to find it (the Christy airport) on my 1935 and 1939 maps, but they don't show anything beyond 35th Avenue. Even in the 1960s there was nothing there except farms - no sign of the landing strip. I have including here a picture from the Arizona State archives to give an indication of how luxurious and sophisticated this airport was. I wonder what would have happened if the City of Phoenix had not moved the airport to the East side? I bet the West Valley would have boomed way back then instead of being relegated to a second class position compared to the East Valley for about 70 years.
Problems with finding the location of old airfields. There are some airports here that I cannot locate precisely on any map. There are several problems that contribute to this. The first and greatest is because official listings, particularly those before 1960, do not give precise coordinates. They only give degrees and minutes (for example Riggs, Coordinates: 33.14/111.47) and not degrees, minutes and seconds, or even fractions of seconds. The trouble is that without an accurate plotting of degrees (1/360s of the diameter of the earth, minutes (1/60) of a degree and seconds (1/60th of a minute) for both latitude (North/South parallels) and longitude (East/West meridians), it is very difficult to determine the exact location of a landing strip. Since the equatorial circumference of the earth is about 24,900 miles, each degree equates to approximately 69 miles and each minute to 1.15 miles (at the equator!). One mile proximity might be OK for a pilot flying around a rural area to find a place to land, but it makes it difficult for a person to identify an airfield from old low definition aerial photo, especially when the airfield is just a dirt or grass strip like so many other dirt or grass areas nearby.
The aeronautical charts are also not much help. They only show approximate locations, not street names and numbers (duhhh!). For example, take the old Cactus and Bar Hart fields mentioned above. The charts tell us they both are in North Phoenix, in the central area, probably above Camelback and the Phoenix mountains. That is about all the chart tells us. Not much, not enough to pinpoint it on a map.
A third problem in locating old, abandoned and forgotten airfields is that many of them had little formal documentation. They were not incorporated and they often they were not associated with any business. Many had no real buildings, much less airplane facilities (and forget about passengers and cargo!). Even long lasting and well known fields such as Fram and Sanders have little history except as a line or two in an airfield database or FAA aeronautical register. An Internet Google search reveals nothing for many fields here (except maybe that they at one time existed), and city libraries and newspaper clipping files provide few or no clues about most listings. For example, Sanders Airfield existed for 30 years in the Kyrene, Tempe, Guadalupe and Awatukee area, had a fleet of biplanes, and yet all that one can find on the Internet is a Superfund site (because of the crop-dusting pesticides) and a few accident reports. I happen to know where it was because my Dad would drive by it on the way to Maricopa in the late 1950s. In my mind, I can still see two or three bright yellow biplanes off to the left, behind a wire fence, next to the road. It's been 50 years.
Clementine Mine Airfield - I don't know much about this except it is north of Sun City at about 130th Avenue, or equivalent. I can't see it on Google Earth because of the cloud cover.
Coyner - A small field in West Phoenix at the SE corner of 195th Avenue and Camelback Road. This may be the same as the White Tanks airfield in the 1984 chart. The location and shape are about right.
Deer Valley - One of three airports owned and operated by the City of Phoenix (the others are Goodyear Litchfield and Sky Harbor). Deer Valley Municipal Airport was built in the 1960s and then purchased by Phoenix in 1971. For many years the City of Phoenix tried to develop this airfield as a major secondary airport to Sky harbor, but local opposition was too much. Even so, it is home to more than 1,200 aircraft. With over 378,000 takeoffs and landings in 2005, it is the 22nd busiest of all U.S. airports, and the 2nd busiest General Aviation Airport in the nation.
Desert Wells I have no information on this except that it was on the 1984 chart, as shown. Later: I have found it in a 1979 map. Unlike other landing strips, this one was easy to identify because of its shape. Update: It is also on 1958 State Highway aerial survey. By the 1980s it was being turned into buildings, as seen in the photo. In 2007 it has a few more buildings, but it is still mostly rural.
Diellen Airfield - An obscure airfield in north Phoenix from the 1985 chart. I have no more information on this field. Update: I looked for it on the aerial photos at the Phoenix Library, but no luck. I think it was located near 22nd Street and Cloud, a little over a mile north of Carefree Highway.
El Mirage - Village Square
I often visit an office only three blocks from where this airfield is supposed to be, but was unaware of it. From its coordinates, it is the same as McNeley Airfield shown in the 1984 chart. It is still listed as an Airport in Google Earth in 2006. The landing strip was positioned diagonally to the Southwest along Via Camille Road, from Grande Ave down to the NE corner of Dysart and Thunderbird. Also notice the remains of Fighter Field (Luke Aux #3) in the left side of the 2006 photo, at the corner of Litchfield Road and Bell.
Enloe Ranch - This is an obscure airfield from the 1967 AOPA airport Directory, according to info provided by Chris Kennedy. It was about 7 miles SE of Chandler at 33.14/111.45 with one turf runway 8-26/2500'. This was very close to Riggs airfield, located at 33.14/111.47 in the same directory.
Google and Microsoft are nuts!
Well, at least when it comes to airports. Once thing I have noticed is that both of these companies have products that show airfields where no airfields exist, or rather, where they have not existed for up to 20 years. It seems that these companies downloaded a database of airfields and incorporated it into different applications. For example, Google Earth shows an airport called El Mirage Village Square at the corner of Dysart and Thunderbird (see above). Ain't there! Microsoft Flight Simulator also shows certain phantom airports, but I guess it is not really much of a problem if you land your virtual airplane on a virtual house instead of a virtual airport.
Estrella Sailport - Quiet, nice little airfield at the south end of the Estrella Mountains. Used for glider flights. A favorite and highly recommended. They used to have a small zoo-type cage out front of the office.
Fairgrounds - Probably the earliest airfield in Phoenix, and I suppose the State Fairgrounds continue to be located at their present location at Thomas Road, Grand and 19th Avenues. This airfield was used from about 1911 until the 1920s. Update: Chris tells me that there is a listing for this airport in the 1929 Dept of Commerce Aeronautics Branch airport directory that lists 3 airports in Phoenix, municipal (probably Christy), Sky Harbor, commercial, and State Fairgrounds, auxiliary. Here is an interesting link about early events at this airport:
Falcon Field - Another traditional airfield in Mesa with a long history back to World War II.
Falcon is one of the better (if not the best) airfields for viewing vintage and historic aircraft. I took these pictures above in my last visit.
Falcon Field Auxiliary - Chris Kennedy has found a record of an Auxiliary field for Falcon located 7.1 miles WNW of Falcon, somewhere in the Area of E. Indian School and Dobson Road (Probably on the Salt River Indian Community). Got an email that may help identify this one - See Cattleman's International Airport above).
Farm-Aero - Another one of the many small fields out in the West Valley. It is listed in the 1975 Phoenix SAC directory as a single 2400 ft runway at 33-36/112-10. I also have it listed as 33.426N/112.168W which puts it at the NE of 51st Ave and Lower Buckeye (see image). No, wait! This is the same as the old South Central airport on 16th Street, based upon a 1950 Phoenix street map (see map image). No, wait, the 1984 Aeronautical chart puts it at 51st Avenue near Southern. Where is it? Did it move? Which is correct? Is this the same as Gomez Airfield? I think that "Farm Aero" was a crop-duster company that moved from field to field, taking its name with it, and causing much confusion. In a 1985 chart, it is also shown at the 51st Ave location.
Fighter Field - Also known as Luke Auxiliary Field #3.
Fram Field. A private field operating from a farm from the 1930s to early 1980s(?) at the SW of 99th Avenue and Glendale. Listed in 1947 Az Highways, Coord: 33.31.00/112.16.00. 2100 ft runway, soft. It is just across the dry wash from the new Glendale Municipal Airport, which you can see in the second image. I guess taking off directly over the new airport wouldn't have been a good idea. In 1984 it was still there, but by 1985 it is listed as abandoned. How sad! At least it hasn't been turned into houses, yet.
Gila Para-Port - Near Saint John's on the Gila River Indian Community, south of Laveen - maybe. It was on a 1985 Aeronautical chart but I couldn't locate any vestiges on Google Earth 2006. The Phoenix SAC directory says it is a 4000 foot strip 16 miles SW of Phoenix. Worse yet, when I plug in the given coordinates (32.15.14/112.07.22) for this on the official listing I get a desert hill down near Picacho Peak (see image). Go figure. Update: Gila Para is also listed as being near (if not the same as) Paradise Airpark at West Broadway and 55th Avenue, just north of the River. Gila Para was probably a company that moved from field to field.
My Uncle the pilot. Recently I had the opportunity to ask my uncle, Tom Logan, if he remembered any of these old airfields. Yes, he did, of course. At one time or another, over the course of four plus decades in the Arizona skies, Uncle Tom flew in and out of many of the airports mentioned here. He remembers Airhaven as having a particularly bad approach - both of them. He also has flown into many other fields mentioned here, including Paradise, Fram and Tempe. He said he never was at the Casablanca field, but that the number of fields of all sizes (many of them ranch landing strips) that he flew into would certainly be in the hundreds.
Gilbert Airport - Listed in 1947 Az Highways, Coord: 32.20.30/111.47.30. These are probably wrong, because they would put this small 1200 ft airport very near to Casa Grande Municipal. It is also referenced as being NW of Gilbert and Eliott. Actually it was supposed to be very close and directly south of the town of Gilbert (at Gilbert, Mesquite and Palo Verde), so that must be it in the picture (horizontal strip, above the 'DHP' label). In fact, that is the whole town of Gilbert in 1958. Gilbert is very also maked on the 1949 chart. This airstrip should not be confused with Gilbert AF Auxiliary #1, an auxiliary airfield for Williams located a few miles northeast (see below, under Williams Auxiliary #1).
Glendale Municipal - South of Glendale Ave at 108th Avenue. A nice medium-sized airport on the West side. This was built after Glendale decided that its previous municipal airport, Airhaven Glendale, had no future because of its size and location. It is directly across from another traditional airfield, Fram Field, so the building of the new Glendale airport meant the end of Fram. I did speak with some staff about this airport and its future, and they mentioned that its proximity to Luke AFB and the resulting restrictions on airspace made it difficult to expand operations.
Flying History - I am trying to visit all the 70-80 sites on this page. While at Glendale Airport I had the pleasure of meeting Hans Lauridsen, the owner of a very nice collection of historic and vintage planes, as seen in these pictures. It seems that the City of Glendale does not appreciate his collection and he may need another place to open a museum. Once again, people fail to appreciate our great tradition in aviation. These planes are priceless, in the sense they represent an age and art that is rapidly disappearing. Hans has the only flying C-119 in the world (This Flying Boxcar is the one used in the latest version of Flight of the Phoenix movie). The PBY Catalina is another plane that has a special place in aviation history. I hope someone in the Valley of the Sun will step in and work so that we can keep these great planes in Phoenix. Otherwise, it will be like the Champion (spelling?) fighter plane collection at Falcon field that left Arizona for greener pastures, or bluer skies.
Goldfield - A nice airport out in a new subdivision in the East Valley, off the Beeline Highway. I don't have any information of this field except that it is shown in Google Earth.
Goodyear Airport. Also called Litchfield Naval Air Facility, now officially called Phoenix Goodyear Airport. Initially it was created as Luke Auxiliary field #6. It is listed in the 1947 Az Highways "military Only, closed to civilian traffic" 6000 ft hard runway. This is one of the three airports now owned and operated by the City of Phoenix. It is large, but the facility is under-utilized, with no commercial operations. At one time, thousands of people worked here, during and after World War 2. It was also famous for being a storage facility for thousands of naval aircraft. I can still remember the hundreds of large aircraft that lined the highway next to the base in the 1950s. There were over 5,000 planes stored there at one time.
The US Navy operated a Naval Air Station in Litchfield Park, Arizona from the WWII era into the late 50's. After WWII, thousands of surplus aircraft were stored at the NAS Litchfield Park. Many of these planes were put back into service to meet the demands of the Korean War. Those that were not put back in service simply sat out in the dry hot climate for many years. A decision was made to close the NAS in the late 50's. The aircraft that remained were either sold off, moved to AMARC, or were smelted on-site. Goodyear NAF is listed in the 1945 Army Airfield Directory but is one of the few without a picture.
Granite Airport - In Paradise Valley. Yes, there was an airfield about 1 mile north of Lincoln, on Tatum near Clearwater and Cottontail. The coordinates are 33.542N/111.980W. I have only seen one reference to this airport. The general area is shown in a 1958 photo. Was it the horizontal area at the bottom or the vertical clearing on the right?
Haciendas - Aka Hanger Haciendas. Listed as a private field at coordinates 33.21.12/112.07.38 with an asphalt 2700 foot runway. This is South of Elliot, between 27th and 32nd avenues in the Laveen area. This, like Stellar Airpark, is one of the few places in the Valley of the Sun where you keep a plane in your garage, next to the BMW. The houses in this community all have access to the airstrip. Nice!
Harts Airfield - or is it Hart Airfield, without the 's'? First of all, I assume this has nothing to do with Bar-Hart Field. I put the coordinates into Google Earth and they put it just north of the Estrella Parkway at about 145th Avenue. The image shows its supposed location. This location is pictured in a 1986 photo, but I am not 100% sure. Is it the area at the bottom with the buildings, between the ditch and the future highway? Are those power lines next to it? Is it the strip further up below the canal?
Hassayampa Airfield - This field shows in the 1985 chart, located Southwest of LUke Auxiliary 1. It is not top be confused with the Hassayumpa in Wickenburg, but I'm not sure about this one. Update: I looked for it on 1980 aircharts and could not find it. I think it was near Union Hills and Mountbatten, north of the White Tank mountains.
Hollingshead. - I dont know too much about this one. It was in the Avondale area, just west of the Litchfield Naval Air Facility. Chris Kennedy sent me two two scans of this field, on the 1962 and 1964 charts. Update: This is another one I was not able to find on the 1982 aerial photo charts. There were several fields that MIGHT have been landing strips near Yuma Road and Cotton, just west of Avondale.
International Harvester - Coordinates listed as 33.18/112.03 in Ahwatukee. Built in early 1950s, it lasted until the early 1960s. It had a very, very long dirt runway - about a mile long: 5400 feet.
JSJ Airfield - In Mesa, West of Country Club and South of McKellips, just north of Inglewood and West of the Canal. This was on an old list, but may be just a different name for an airfield already listed here - probably Mesa Airport. The coordinates are 33.447N/111.846W which puts it as shown in the picture.
Kyrene Airfield - I don't know about this one. I have seen this one mentioned only once on a list with some rough coordinates that put it near Kyrene Road and the railroad, just South of Ray Road. This may be the same as the Brenteson Airfield (see above). It shows in the 1979 chart below Sanders, but it is marked as abandoned. Update: It is about 99% certain that this field is the same as Brenteson Airfield (see above). They never appear together and they both are listed as 1195 feet altitude.
Laveen Airfield - This was not on any list, but I came across it while searching for other landing strips. It was on 51st Avenue South of Baseline Road, just west of the point of South Mountain. I can see at least four small planes in the photo. The 2007 Google Earth photo doesn't show any sign of the airstrip. Update: This airfield is really forgotten. It is not on any chart, map, listing, directory or even the Internet, as far as I can tell. It is almost as if it never existed.
Litchfield Park - Listed in 1947 Az Highways, Coord 33.30.00/112.22.00. 3700 ft hard runway. "Private." I understand this was built in the 1930s to serve the famous Wigwam Resort. The Airstrip was located just east of Litchfield Road and South of Camelback. Freeman (*) puts it on Bullard, north of Indian School, where the resort golf course was built. In the 1979 photo you can still see a few patches of the runway under and around the golf greens. It was one of the earliest airfields in the Valley.
Litchfield NAF - see Goodyear Airport above.
LS1 - Landing Strip #1 - I was out at the Old Spanish Mine in the Sierra Estrellas this weekend (link), and from the that mountain we could see a landing trip at the southern end of Rainbow Valley just north of Sevenmile Mountain. There was a small plane on it, out in the middle of nowhere. I have read that there are over 600 abandoned airfields in Arizona, many in remote parts of the state. Some are used by drug runners, some just fall apart, overrun by weeds and destroyed by erosion.
- A small landing strip in the southern part of Rainbow Valley out in the middle of nowhere (see picture) near Riggs Road and 120th Avenue, approximately. Last weekend I was at the Old Spanish Mine in the Estrellas and watched a small plane take off. There were, of course, a few jokes about mules and drug smuggling. It even has a small hanger.
LS2, or Landing Strip #2. - Another deserted landing strip, even more remote and abandoned than LS1 above. It is just north of Sevenmile Mountain in Rainbow Valley. This is another abandoned (?) field in the middle of the desert. According to some sources, there are between 700 and 1000 of these fields around the state of Arizona. Many of them can still be used by small planes. Update: Could this be the Flying A airstrip on the 1979 chart?
Lufthansa - Secret German airport on the road to Mobile in the southern part of Rainbow Valley, just west of Sevenmile Mountain (Corrd: 33.06.43/112.16.09). It is actually a pretty big field (4500 feet, hard). I think it is also known as Mobile Airport. Early in 2007 I was out in the Estrella Mountains (see comments on LS1 and LS2 above) and on the way back we went by the Lufthansa Mobile airport. I didn't see any planes, but it is a nice facility.
Luke AFB - The world's largest and busiest military fighter airport. Established in World War 2 and named after famed Arizona WW1 ace, Frank Luke, the balloon Buster.
Luke was a very busy base even during WW2. It had seven large, named satellite fields as follows:
Luke Auxiliary #1 was also known as Whittman Airfield (15.5 miles NW).
Luke Auxiliary #2 was also known as Beardsley Airfield(11.7 miles NNW).
Luke Auxiliary #3 was also known as Fighter Airfield(6.4 miles N).
Luke Auxiliary #4 was also known as Wickenburg Airfield(21.0 miles NW).
Luke Auxiliary #5 was also known as Buckeye Airfield(20.3 miles WSW).
Luke Auxiliary #6 was also known as Goodyear Airfield(10.7 miles SW).
Luke Auxiliary #7 was also known as Hassayampa Airfield(25.5 miles WSW).
Mysterious triangles in the desert...
Once in a while I come across postings on the Internet about huge, strange triangles in the desert. Could this be the vestiges of an ancient civilization? Could it be the work of the gods? Here are a few comments from the Internet about these strange markings:
What’s this giant equilateral triangle in the desert near the city of Surprise, Arizona for?
Reader Jim V wrote: The mysterious triangle near Surprise, AZ is intriguing. I discovered a twist just to the southeast of the aforementioned triangle - an exact duplicate but turned 90 degrees ccw, at this location: 33deg 43min 07.77sec N / 112deg 31min 39.51sec W. This triangle is superimposed on an airstrip and may indicate, in some way, the significance of the other. Who knows? (from http://www.neatorama.com/2006/08/20/mysterious-triangle-in-surprise-arizona/)
Fortunately, I had a dream and the nature of these triangles was revealed to me by the Angel Gabriel himself. These enormous markings were built by the Hohokam Indians as alien spacecraft landing fields. Since the Little Green Men failed to show up, the Army Air Forces in World War 2 used them as auxiliary bases, training fields and emergency landing strips.
The triangle shape is the trademark format of AAF Airbases of the WW2 era. Every major field had several smaller auxiliary bases and these were almost always built as triangles and many are still visible. Many of the major fields listed here also began as triangles, including Thunderbird, Goodyear, Memorial, Falcon, Scottsdale, Luke and Williams. You can still see the WW2 triangle shape in many of the smaller municipal airports located near Phoenix, including Buckeye, Casa Grande and Coolidge airports (see photos!).
Speaking of strange markings in the desert, I must say a word about the PHOENIX arrow sign carved into a mountain east of Apache Junction. I understand that it dates from the 1950s and was a navigational tool for lost pilots. It is a well-known landmark. The picture is as seen from a mile up, so the sign letters are quite big. Even today, I understand that lost jumbo pilots will often use it to find their way to Sky Harbor.
Maricopa - I am not going to show pictures of all the airfields in Maricopa. That place is like "Airfield Heaven" - there are so many. It seems that every ranch or outhouse has its own landing strip. Here is a partial list: Ak Chin, Berry Ranch, Boulais, Donnelly Residence, Estrella Sailport, Hidden Valley, Hine, Maricopa Municipal, Mel's Ranch, Millar, Pinal Dusters, Schu Ranch, Serene, U of A Ag Center, Flying Bucket (Mobile), Flying A Ranch, Serene Field, Phoenix Regional (also called Grande Valley). I have selected a picture of Serene Airfield to include here. It is typical of the many fields in the Maricopa area.
Marsh - Another one of the many small fields out in the West Valley. Listed at coordinates 33.28/112.24 (not very exact!). I believe the field was at approximately 155th Avenue (Estrella Parkway) and McDowell Road. I have found another listing which puts it at 33/468N/112/402W, which puts it at 160th Avenue just North of McDowell and I-10 (see picture). Found it in 1972, planes and all. I really like it when they have a few airplanes that show in the photo - it helps so much.
McNeley - There was a 2500 ft dirt strip airfield south of Surprise and West of El Mirage. Listed as "abandoned" in 1984 chart. Update: This field was later known as El Mirage - Village Square Airport (see entry above!). In the photo it would be under the label "Surprise", running diagonally to the Southwest along Via Camille Road, from Grande Ave down to the NE corner of Dysart and Thunderbird.
Memorial - Secret CIA airfield next to I-10 just south of Chandler. Built during WW2 as an auxiliary field #5 for Williams AAF, it later was listed under the name Goodyear Airport. It is a pretty big field, one of the largest in the Valley, but not much can be found about it in the libraries and papers. Used by Air America. Has some pretty big 4 engine planes sitting around. It is on the Gila River Indian Community land and the tribe is thinking of developing it as a major airpark.
Other sites, more information. While doing the research (such as it is) for this page on old airfields in the Phoenix area, I came across some websites that are excellent resources for old and abandoned airports. These are:
1. Paul Freeman's great site. In his own words: As a pilot, a particular interest of mine has always been the abandoned airfields that dot the landscape of much of this country. Both for their potential safety value to a pilot in an emergency, and also for their sometimes fascinating history, this particular topic has always held my curiosity. When I'm a passenger on commercial flights, I've always found myself looking out the window, constantly looking for airfields below. His site is the best on this topic and can be found here: and also here: .
2. Civil Airports of Arizona. As the title says, this is a listing of data from various sources relating to civil (non-military) airfields. It is a work in progress, and the author is adding detail as it becomes available or is supplied by interested viewers. Here is a link to this site: .
3. Airfield Database. This site belongs to an ex-USAF airman with a long career in the aerospace industry. He is retired so now his hobby is collecting old airfields, with a particular interest in closed vs active airports. He also is doing a fine job. Here is a link to this site: .
I highly recommend these websites, and they often go into much more detail than I have put here on this page. Congratulations to them for their good work and for preserving a little bit of history that is rapidly being plowed up and turned into urban landscapes.
Mesa Airpark - Listed in 1947 Az Highways as private airstrip, Coord: 32.25.00/111.51.30, 1.4 miles west of Mesa, 2700 ft dirt runway. Charter service available (Must have been like the one in the old movie 'Its a mad, mad, mad world'). Near SW University and Alma School Road. This may be the same as Ross Airport, which I have seen also, but with coordinates that put it near Extension and Main. These two locations are not far apart and may be the same field. Maybe, maybe not.
Mesa Airport - Listed as AF (Air Force) field in 1947 Az Highways, Coord: 33.36.15/111.50.30 (or 33.26/111.50), 1.8 miles NNW of Mesa, 1800 ft runway. Probably near NW corner of Country Club and Brown. This may be what was also called JSJ Airfield. I haven't been able to find any photos that show either of these two Mesa airports.
Moseley - Coordinates: 33.30.40/112.14.30. This was a private 2600 ft dirt strip airfield near Indian School and 83rd Avenue (as best as I can determine from the charts). Listed as "Not Usable" in 1984 chart, but probably closed in the early 1970s. After a long, hard search I found it in a 1970 photo. It is a typical, rural, farm field. It may be the same as the Rex Williams airfield on the 1949 USAF chart.
Navspacecom Maricopa - This is an old dirt field next to the naval satellite space tracking station on the West side of the road down to Maricopa. It is just beyond Pima Butte, South of the Gila River (site of the last major battle between Indian tribes and also the bloodiest ground in Arizona). The name, Navspacecom, makes it sound like it is a UFO base.
Oasis - Another forgotten Mesa field with a long history. Listed in 1947 Az Highways, Coord: 33.24.45/111.38.00 as single 1800 ft hard runway. Probably NW of Ellsworth and Broadway, south of Main Street. It is listed in the AOPA Directory in 1970 at 33-24-38.484/111-38-15.936 as AF (Air Force) field with two 3000 oiled runways in 1970. Could this have been in Florence Junction? I am confused (again). Update: Found it! It is just south of Main Street (Apache Trail) at Ellsworth. An easy landmark for it is small long butte with the water tank on it on the road to Apache Junction. It is just east of this butte on the south side of the road.
Papago AAF - Near my house. Another old military field in the middle of Phoenix. The two runways are still there, but are no longer used for fixed wing aircraft since the 1990s - only choppers. The runways are marked with big "X"s to indicate they are not usable. This is just as well because a bunch of trailers, cars and RVs are parked all over the main runway. Oh yes, I remember a neighbor telling me that many years ago he saw a U-2 land at Papago. I doubt it and the Information officer at the base denied it, so it's probably true.
By my count, there were about 20 airfields in the Phoenix area used by the military during World War II. This includes the main bases (Luke and Williams), some (but not all) of the auxiliary fields attached to those two, the contract training bases operated by Southwest and other private companies to train pilots (Falcon, Thunderbird, Scottsdale, Paradise), secondary fields (Litchfield NAS) that expanded into large operations, smaller military airstrips (Papago), and civilian fields used to ferry aircraft and for logistical support (Sky Harbor). This is just for the closer areas in the Valley of the Sun and does not consider the many other fields farther out around Wickenburg, Gila Bend, Buckeye, Dateland, Ajo, and Casa Grande.
This proliferation of airfields was part of the massive build up in the early years of the 1940s by the rapidly expanding Army Air Forces (there was no separate Air Force at that time, both the Army and the Navy each had their own aviation branches). Arizona received a disproportionate amount of these fields due to its all-year flying weather, flat land and (at that time) sparse population. According to expert sources, the number of military bases peaked at the end of 1943, with 345 main bases, 116 subbases, and 322 auxiliary fields (Craven and Cate, 1955). Another source cites the number of military airfields in the US at the end of World War II as 1,333 (Morgan, 1987).
Paradise Airport - SW corner of 19th Avenue and Peoria in Sunnyslope, or 15th Avenue and Butler, depending on the source. Coordinates: 220.127.116.116/112.05.176. Established during WW2 as an Auxiliary field #3 for Thunderbird, it lasted until the late 1950s. It had four runways, the largest of which was 3200 feet. Listed in 1947 Az Highways, 2600 ft soft runway. Had maintenance facilities and even 'meals available'. This also the airport featured in WW2 charts as Southwest Airways N. 3 airfield. Southwest (no relation to the current airline) had a contract with the Army Air Force for training pilots. This airbase was quite busy at one time, featuring a full range of facilities for personnel, training and repair. A 1958 Arizona Highways magazine says that Sky Harbor had 250 small aircraft hangered there, while Airhaven and Paradise had 150 between them. So it must have been a fairly busy airport. In the early 1950s, Coyner Crop Dusters was located at this airfield. They are still around, out in the far west Valley. Question: Was this the same as Plyant Flying Service Airfield? (See entry below)
- Not to be confused with Paradise Airport in Sunnyslope, a much bigger and more famous field. Paradise Airpark was located near 51st Avenue and Broadway, just north of the Salt River. As with so many obscure fields, I have inexact and different coordinates for it. I have also found a listing for Gila Para Airport that puts this one right next to Paradise, so they may be the same (see picture). Gila Para was supposed to have been down on the Gila River Indian Community near St Johns but it may have moved. Update: I found it in a 1988 photo. It even has airplanes!
Patterson - Listed in 1970 as in Chandler, probably situated around NW corner of Dobson and Frye. I am not too sure if I have the right patch of dirt. A nice big airplane sitting on a well-marked runway would be helpful in finding these old airports and landing strips. Update: Chris Kennedy says this airfield is listed in the 1967 AOPA airport Directory at 33.18/111.53 with one sod runway 9-26/2650feet.
Pegasus Airport - Nice sized private field near Ellsworth and Hunt Highway in the far Southeast Valley. Not marked as airfield on Google Earth for some reason.
Phoenix District - This was on an old list, not on a chart. It may be just a different name for an airfield already listed here. The coordinates are 33.443N/112.148 in the Fowler district. This put it at 43rd Ave between Washington and Buckeye Road, just south and east of the railroad tracks (see image) - but I see no indication of a landing strip (in 2007). There is also the fact that this is near to the locations given for Farm-Aero and Paradise Airports. Too many fields to close together! I am not sure about this one. A 1958 photo shows a big vacant lot near the location with traces of a diagonal marking. Who knows?
Phoenix Regional - A small sized airport down on the road from Maricopa to Casa Grande with big pretensions. It is also called the Grande Valley airport. Strangely it is just a few feet from where my Grandfather homesteaded in 1898. My dad was raised there, in front of the Southern Pacific railroad tracks, right next to this airport. Small world.
Pleasant Valley - At Pleasant valley and Carefree Roads (Coord: 33.48.02/112.15.02). Built in 1980s as a single strip airfield, it now has three 4200' runways. I have heard good things about this nice, medium-sized, general aviation field serving the Northern area of the Valley of the Sun.
Plyant Flying Service Airfield. Listed in 1940 as such but later designated Southwest Airways field (1943). The problem is that the Aeronautical charts do not show precise locations. This may be the Paradise Airport in Sunnyslope, but the Southwest Airways Airport is clearly south of the canal in the chart while Paradise is shown as north of it. It is also listed as AF (Air Force) but no coordinates are given. I found it on a 1946 aeronautical chart. It is clearly distinct from Paradise Airfield (Well, I am about 70% sure of this, but I would like to find a single chart with both fields marked separately!).
Rainbow Valley - I don't have much info on this one, except that it has been listed since the 1960s but is marked as "Not Usable" on both the 1979 and 1984 charts. Rainbow Valley has a bunch on small unlisted airfields. See my comments on LS1 and LS2.
Ray Schnepf - One of those family farm airfields, I guess. This was just South of Williams AFB in the far East Valley. I don't have any information of this field. It is marked as "Closed" in the 1984 chart.
Rex Williams - Another one of those family farm airfields, I guess. This was just South of Fram Field on the West side. The only place I found this was on the USAF Urban chart - 1949. Later: I have found it on a 1952 map as one of 23 airports listed (plus a few more not listed) for Metropolitan Phoenix. It is listed as "Williams Airport." This is the same airport later known as Moseley Airfield, I think.
Riggs - Listed in 1947 Az Highways, Coord: 33.14.00/111.47.00 near Chandler Heights Rd and S. Gilbert (or between Chandler Heights and Riggs, and Gilbert and Lindsey Roads), or 8 miles South of Gilbert. 2600 ft runway. I have no other information about this field. I am not even 100% sure this (1979) is a picture of it. Update: I think I found it in a 1972 photo. There is an airfield at the corner of Riggs and Val Vista. Must be it!
Rio de Janeiro. No, there is not, and never has been, a Rio de Janeiro airport in Phoenix. I only put it here as a link to my page about aviation in Rio de Janeiro, on my Brazil site. I have always liked planes - particularly historic, old aeroplanes of the World War II era and before. The excuse I found to write this page was a 1936 Pan American Airways booklet promoting Flying Clipper Cruises to Rio. I purchased it on Ebay. Anyway, this page is about aviation in Rio de Janeiro, including Santos Dumont airport, and most of all, the great aircraft of the 1930s: the Panam Sikosky Clipper flying boats, the Junkers J52s, the Condor, the DC-3s, the Connies, and of course, the great Graf Zeppelin.
Rittenhouse - A large and important auxiliary field for Williams AAF base set up in WW2. Was abandoned in the 1970s but is still used for helicopter training by National Guard units. At Ocotillo and Schnepf Road, just off the CAP canal. It is marked as "Closed" in 1979 but open in 1984.
Roanoke Airport - There was a relatively important airfield in the 1920s, situated on Roanoke Street just south of Thomas Road at Central Avenue. Remember, this was the northern edge of town in the 1920s (In fact, "North High school" is also on Thomas and 10th Street, and Thomas in now more south than north!).
Ross Airfield - This is an obscure listing for a forgotten airfield in central Mesa. According to information I have, this was at Main Street and Extension (see photo of possible location), across from what is the Landmark Restaurant (Recommended!). It is not on any chart, as far as I know. It is probably the same as Mesa Airpark. Here are pictures of the area in 1949 and 1958. The only likely place in the area is the clearing South of the railroad tracks on Alma School. Could it be? I don't have any dates for this field.
Saguaro Airport - This one is a mystery. It is listed as 33.448N/112.017W. That puts it at the Southeast corner of 30th Street and Washington, just north of Sky Harbor. I have no information or pictures on this one. Did it really exist? A 1958 photo shows a big area in front of the old Greyhound race track. Notice the faint diagonal markings on the ground. Could that be it?
Sanders Aviation Field - Yes, I remember this one. It was down in the Kyrene area, south of Guadalupe, at 7001 S. Priest (East of Priest, West of Canal and North of Elliot). It had a bunch of bright yellow biplanes used for crop-dusting. I can't believe that all that is left of Sander on the Internet is the EPA Superfund cleanup records. Wait, I found a NTSB reference on the Internet: 71/7/25, Tempe, Az Cessna 150 Instructional Student, Age 24, 28 Total Solo Hours, Not Instrument Rated. Name of airport: Sanders. Type Of Accident: Overshoot Landing Level Off/Touchdown, Nose Over/Down. Landing: Roll. Damage Substantial. Probable Cause(s): Pilot In Command - Failed To Initiate Go-Around, Factor(S): Miscellaneous - Evasive Maneuver To Avoid Collision. Remarks - Car Drove Across Rwy, Abt 200ft In Front Of Acft, Drg Norm Apch. Yes, cars driving across the runway can be a problem. Wait, another one: 64/10/24 Aircraft: Piper Pa22. Type Of Accident: Overshoot. Phase Of Operation: Landing: Roll, Collided With: Ditches. Probable Cause(S): Pilot In Command - Misjudged Distance And Speed. Must have been a dangerous airfield, with all those cars and ditches. At least there were no reports of cows on the field.
Here are a few aerial photos of this field. By 1985 it was closed; notice the runway plowed up for a road and marked with giant Xs to indicate they cannot be used.
Update: I went to visit the old Sanders site, but I was too late. About 1 month before I got there (5/2007) the owners finally got EPA approval to start reutilizing the location. The old hanger and building foundations visible in the recent photos here are gone. The whole area is being turn into buildings.
Scottsdale Airpark - This is where all the fancy private and executive jets are. It was established in the mid 1940s as Army Air Force Thunderbird Field #2, as seen in the 1946 chart. It later was used by Arizona State College (Now Arizona State University) in the late 1940s and then was sold to the Seventh Day Adventist Church that used it in the 1950s. In the 1960s, I believe, the City of Scottsdale acquired the property. It is the most upscale airport in town, as befits its location and name. Update: Scottsdale does not own the airport. It actually belongs to the Adventists, who leased it to Scottsdale with the stipulation that if they no longer want it then the airport reverts to the church and no more Saturday flights.
Sky Harbor - Maybe I should write a page just about this airport.
Sky-Hi Pioneer (Scottsdale) - Actually there were at least two locations for Sky Hi and maybe three. It was a portable airport, or as the Valley of the Sun expanded, the airport moved. I have seen listings for the 'Original' Sky-Hi Pioneer at 33.42/111.55 in 1968. This would put it in North Scottsdale, east of Pinnacle Peak and Scottsdale Road, on Miller. Update: Chris Kennedy has provided a chart showing Shy Hi Pioneer in 1968 directly north of the Scottsdale Airport.
Sky-Hi Pioneer (N. Phoenix) - This is the second location for this airport. I guess it moved to North Phoenix after the North Scottsdale locationed closed in the late 1960s. Coordinates: 33.41.30/112.00.35. This would put it South of Pinnacle Peak Road near 36th Street. Update: I have found a listing that gives coordinates 33.672N/112.002W. This puts it at 36th Street, north of Beardsley, near the canal, under what is now the 51 / 101 highway interchange (see image). Using this information I went back to the old charts and found the airstrip in a 1978 photo. If you look closely in the 2007 photo you can see a faint small part of the diagonal runway under the freeway access lane. I have also seen another listings for Ski-Hi even farther north, above the 36th Street location.
Airplanes, by the thousands...
Why so many airports? Well, there is the good weather and the fact that so much of the land is flat... However, the biggest reason for the quantity of airports was the availably of World War 2 surplus airplanes, at a fraction of their original cost.
At the end of the Second World War US military forces had to dispose of 200,000 aircraft they no longer needed, either by destroying the aircraft and melting them into metal ingots, or by selling the aircraft on the private market at very cheap prices.
To process all these aircraft, large facilities were assembled at a number of airfields in the United States, like at Kingman, Arizona, and at, what is now Chino Airport in southern California, then known as Cal-aero field in Ontario.
South Phoenix - Yes, just south of Sky Harbor there was another airport up until the 1950s, just across the dry Salt River on 16th Street and Elwood. Listed in 1947 Az Highways as having a 2600 ft soft runway. I believe that in the 1940s this was also known as the SouthWest Airways airfield. Chris Kennedy has sent scans of two charts, for different years. Notice that on one the airfield in question is north of the river, while it shows as south on the other and all urban photos and maps. In fact, the aerial photo seems to put the field above where the urban maps show it. Also, this airfield may have also been known by other names. Was this the same as Gomez Airport or Farm-Aero?
Southwest Airways Field #3 - There is some confusion about this airport. I thought it was the same as Paradise, but not sure. The 1945 Army Airforce airfield directory has a listing but no photo (see image). If this is number 3, where are 1 and 2? Was South Phoenix airport one of the two other Southwest airfields? Update: Southwest Airways field, Thunderbird 1 Auxiliary 3 and Paradise Airport are all the same airport.
Sports Center - This was listed in the 1970s as a 3500-foot dirt private field at 33.43.25/112.06.00 in North Phoenix. That would put it near Jomax Road and 19th Avenue, North of Happy Valley. I have put those coordinates into Google Earth and I come up with an area above Happy Valley on 19th Avenue, just south of the canal. No sign of an airfield, but it could be there, somewhere.
Stellar Airpark - If you want to keep a plane in your garage and fly from home, this is the place to be. A cool little airport in Chandler, just south of Tempe, in a residential neighborhood. Get up, have breakfast, kiss the wife goodbye, jump in the plane, taxi to the runway, off into the wild blue yonder to wherever. On the earlier charts, this airport is always marked as Stellar City airfield.
Surprise Airfield - The 1984 chart show an airport with a small 2000 ft dirt airfield out in Surprise. I have a picture of it, I think. This field may be the single runway landing strip listed as Thunderbird Auxiliary A-2 on some 1940s charts. It is in the right general area and the orientation is correct. In the 1985 chart it is marked as "Not usable".
Tempe Airport - I should remember this, but I don't. On Broadway, west of Mill Ave and the railroad tracks, next to Date Palm Manor, across from the High School, there was an airport. I remember the area as a big empty field in the mid and late 1950s. I remember Date Palm Manor even better because of all the scorpions in the bark of the palms. This field is shown in the 1946 chart as having service facilities.
Thunderbird - Another WW2 training field, later to become the site of the American Institute for International Business. This field is often called Thunderbird 1, to differenciate it from Thunderbird 2 (In North Scottsdale). At least one hanger still exits.
Thunderbird auxiliary fields
This airport was a major pilot training facility and so it had several auxiliary fields (see images here). The following are listed in the 1945 Army Airforce (AAF) airfield directory:
Thunderbird 1 Auxiliary 1 was located near Bell Road and 19th Avenue, probably in the NE corner. This is very close to what is now Turf Paradise which later also had an airport.
Thunderbird 1 Auxiliary 2 was located near Union Hills Road around 83rd Avenue, near to the Agua Fria wash (and now by the 101 Freeway). You can see the wash easily in the 1943 photo.
Thunderbird 1 Auxiliary 3 was located north of Union Hills Road around 21st Avenue, just above the canal. This location is also certain because you can see the curve of the canal in the old pictures. Thunderbird 1 Auxiliary 3 is the same as Paradise Airport and Southwest Airfield.
There was also a Thunderbird 1 Auxiliary 4 at W. Pinnacle Peak and N 43rd Avenue. As Chris says "the whole state of Arizona was one big landing strip during WWII."
Thunderbird 2, or Aux. A-2 - The main Thunderbird field had at least two auxiliary fields (or more, maybe 4 or 5), the most famous of which is Thunderbird II, or A-2, now called Scottsdale Airpark. It also had an auxiliary field called A-2. The problem is finding it. It was not a triangle but a 2PM orientated single dirt runway strip in NE Phoenix. I thought it was the Surprise Airfield but the coordinates put it further East, as shown in the photo. I don't know about this one.
Chris Kennedy has written to tell me that Thunderbird 2 (Scottsdale) also had auxilary fields, one at E. Cactus Rd and N. 32nd ST, and another at E Bell and N. 40th Street.
Turf - Yes, from the early 1960s to the late 1970s the Turf Paradise racetrack had it own landing field. It is listed as Coordinates 33.37.59/112.0540 and had a single 3000-foot dirt landing strip just south of the track. Turf was very close to the old Thunderbird 1 Auxiliary 1 airfield.
U of A Agri Center - A small field near Maricopa. And why doesn't ASU have its own field down in Tucson? Are we going to let this insult pass with no response?
Regional airports - In your dreams
Since the 1960s, as the population of the Valley of the Sun exploded, there has been talk of the need for regional airports to handle the increasing demand for air transportation. The logic here is twofold: first of all there the belief that Sky Harbor alone could not handle the increased traffic predicted for the 1990s and beyond. Another reason for the need of regional airports was the vastness of the Phoenix Metropolitan area, now approximately 100 miles wide (East to West) and 80 miles long (North to South).
It seems to me that, for the planners at Phoenix and MAG, the ultimate model for urban planning and airport development is Los Angeles, California. So if LA has a major airport (LAX) and 3-4 regional airports, Phoenix must also. Of course, LA also has an ocean and beaches (even if they are not so great), so Phoenix must also have ocean beaches. Makes sense to me.
Wiggins - Listed in 1947 Arizona Highways, Coord: 33.17.45/111.49.30, near Pecos and McQueen, or 1.6 miles SE of Chandler. 1700 ft runway. "Not open to public." I am not sure this is a picture of the airstrip. It is in the general area and it looks like it may have been an airport at one time - maybe. It is often very hard to pick to find an airport using old aerial photos without have exact coordinates or (even more rarely) an address. A freshly plowed field or straight wide road can look very much like a landing strip. This Wiggins is a different airfield from the Wiggins Airport in Eloy. Note: I added the chart index for my use at a later time. Update: Chris Kennedy has sent me a scan of the March 1949 Sectional chart showing Wiggins.
Williams Aux #1 also called Gilbert AF Auxiliary #1- Listed in 1947 Az Highways, Coord: 33.23.15/111.40.00. Listed as located in Gilbert, but coordinates put it at Power and US60 Superstition in Mesa. Go figure. Had a 4000 ft hard runway. Like Luke, Williams had many satellite auxiliary fields. I found a picture of a field 2-3 miles directly north of Willie, at US 60 (Superstition Freeway) and Sosseman. As you can see, civilization (in the form of housing subdivisions) is slowly eating away at this airfield. It's almost gone.
Williams Gateway - Better known and loved as "Willie" I was sorry to see this traditional Air Force base close during the 1990s. I have gone to Willie Day events many times over decades to see the planes and enjoy the show. It was built in the summer of 1941 as Mesa Military Airport, and then re-named Higley Field. In 1942 its name was changed to Williams Field. During WW2 and afterwards, Williams was basically a base used to train two-engine and four-engine bomber crews. It was closed by the Air Force in 2000, as part of the military reduction and cost-savings process. It is now known as Gateway Williams Airport and it is probably the best situated and equipped to become the only alternative to Sky Harbor in the Valley of the Sun. I predict it will grow and become the only other major airport in the Phoenix area with regularly scheduled passenger flights.
Williams was quite large during WW2, probably as big as Luke or Sky Habor. Luke was a very busy base even during WW2. It is listed in the 1945 Army Airforce Directory as having five named satellite fields as follows:
Williams Auxiliary #1 was also known as Gilbert Airfield (5.5 miles N).
Williams Auxiliary #2 was also known as Rittenhouse Airfield (9.0 miles ESE).
Williams Auxiliary #3 was also known as Coolidge Airfield (30.0 miles SSE).
Williams Auxiliary #4 was also known as Casa Grande Airfield (25.3 miles SSW).
Williams Auxiliary #5 was also known as Goodyear Airfield(14.4 miles WSW). This is the field known as Memorial Airfield, not the other 'Goodyear' in the West Valley.
Williams Airfield. Often listed on maps and directories in the 1950s but not to be confused with the two above. This was on the Westside, near 91st Ave and Indian School Road. Better known as Rex Williams Airfield (see above). This one was also later known as Moseley Airport (also listed above).
Whittman Airfield - Also known as Luke Airfield Auxiliary 1
Womack - Don't know much about this one. It was in Apache Junction.
Airport localization chart (GIF).. Early photo thumbnail. Click to enlarge.
Matrix for Airport localization. Early photo thumbnail. Click to enlarge.
Valley of the Sun, 1952 - It lists 23 airports in the Phoenix Metropolitan area. Twenty-three! And there are a few more not listed including AF Auxiliary fields and some private ones. It is a good map.
Some of the airfields listed here need work. These are airports that I have found listed or cited in papers with a general location, but with no specific, detailed information. In most cases I have been unable to confirm their exact location on the ground and I have no pictures except old photos of the general area. I am sure that most of these existed, but for how long is uncertain. These problem airports are:
Mesa Airport, Mesa Airpark, Ross, Saguaro, Granite, Kyrene, JSJ, Patterson, Pecos, Riggs and Wiggins. I think all of these did exist at one time, in fact I have approximate coordinates for many of them, but I would like visual confirmation or an external reference.
There are a few more airfield names I came across but I have not included them here, because they were one-line mentions in newspapers and the location was so general that it was useless. Thus, "Arizona Airport" in Phoenix did not make this list. If it had been "Arizona Airport" at the corner of Basline and 7th Street, that would make it a "possible" airport and something to look for. Also the "Jones airfield south of Mesa" does not qualify. Jones is a very common name and "south of Mesa" goes all the way to the South Pole. I saw a few references to "Desert Airfield" in Phoenix, but that is very suspect, to say the least, as is "Ranch airport". I have enough trouble finding some of these without the wild goose chases.
Update: Thanks to Chris Kennedy, Patterson, Riggs and Wiggins are safe and sound, and accounted for. Chris has an extensive collection of old aviation directories and charts, and he sent me scans of the sectionals for these three airfields as well as others.
United States Air Force Urban Area Chart for Phoenix, 1949. This is a large and nice chart of the airfields as of the beginning of 1949. The chart doesn't show the fields in the far west Valley, and I cut off the southern part, so it also doesn't show the landing strips and airfields in the far east or in southeast parts of the Valley of the Sun.
Notice how many unnamed "AF Auxiliary landing areas" are on the north side, including one next to North Phoenix (Cactus) Airport. Also notice also Rex Williams (probably the same as Mosley). Most of all notice that the USAF can't locate Mesa Airpark, but just draws a big circle in the general vicinity. Anyway, this is a great chart.
Other possible airfields
Once in a while, when looking at old aerial photos, I come across an area that looks like a landing field. I will put them here. Sometimes it is very hard, at least for me, to spot an airstrip from a photo.
Z1. This is at McDowell and about 155th Ave, in 1958. Could it be Marsh? The field orientation is wrong - Marsh runway is east-west. Update: NO, not Marsh. I have identified Marsh. What is this? Update 2. It could be Hollingshead. I didn't even know this one existed until Chris sent me a copy of the charts.
Z2. Was there a landing strip at the Arizona Biltmore? Why not? The Cascablanca and Wigwam had airports? This is a 1958 photo.
A few other pages at this site
Here are some "go to" icons to other pages on this site. Read about the Van Buren, our sleaziest and most interesting street. Learn about the Sierra Estrellas, our most historic mountains, or the Old Spanish Gold Mine, lost for 300 years but within 25 miles of downtown Phoenix. Consider the treasure that is Papago Park, or the history of the famous POW camp at that location. And, of course, there is the "All Topics" page with a list of most of the pages on this site. Enjoy.
This page about airports and airfields in the Phoenix area. Published April 2007. Last update August 2008.