Civilian pilots were given the opportunity to land their aircraft at Luke Air Force Base during a two-day event held Oct. 18 and 19. The civilian fly-in greeted approximately 170 participants with about 40 civilian aircraft.
“The purpose of the event was to promote safe flying operations between civilian and military aircraft,” said Maj. Raymond Naylor, 62nd Fighter Squadron assistant director of operations.
The pilots arrived Thursday morning either by car or plane. Those who flew aircraft to the event were given the rare opportunity to land their planes at Luke AFB. An F-16 Fighting Falcon, A-10 Warthog and myriad weapons were on display allowing guests a close-up view of Air Force combat assets. A barbecue lunch was provided by Fighter Country Partnership and Club Five Six prior to the kickoff of the formal events.
The afternoon featured briefings and discussions on topics including Arizona airspace structure, Luke radar approach control, mid-air collision avoidance, local area survival, and F-16, A-10 and H-60 capabilities.
The first day’s focus was on civilian pilots learning how to integrate safely with military aircraft by pointing out potential conflicting areas and commonly used training areas, Naylor said.
The following day, participants were split into two groups. The first group received a base tour and time in an F-16 simulator. The second group experienced a tour of the Barry M. Goldwater Range.
This event was offered primarily to licensed pilots from Arizona, but pilots from neighboring states who use local airspace through Luke training areas were welcome to attend.
Marquerite Baier, a local aircraft owner and engineer, flew in from Scottsdale Airport in an experimental RV-9A, along with her co-pilot, Mallory Schreck, who is based out of Falcon Field. Both women are a part of the Phoenix Ninety-Nines, an international organization of women pilots that promote advancement of aviation through education, scholarships and mutual support.
Baier told a story that involved a misguided flight into Luke airspace years ago. Her plan was to land at Glendale Municipal Airport. She had previously mapped her course, and her global positioning system was ready to go. Along the way, she veered off the path into Luke’s airspace when she mistook Luke’s water tower for Glendale Airport. She was immediately ordered by Luke’s control tower to turn north.
This close call and others like it was what led her and other pilots to Luke for the fly-in.
“This event has helped us to understand where the restricted areas are, and we now understand how Luke operates so we can avoid their pilots when they’re training,” Baier said.
Baier was not alone in finding value in the civilian fly-in; her co-pilot also expressed appreciation in what she learned throughout the briefings.
“We were excited when we heard Luke was offering this event,” Schreck said. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and land at an actual military base as a civilian. Because of this event, I am now more likely to expand my horizons into new areas.”
Other pilots attending the fly-in extended appreciation for the knowledge gained through the discussions including those who traveled a great distance.
David Domas, general aviation pilot, had the distinction of being the civilian who flew in from the furthest distance. He flew approximately 4,000 miles from Anchorage, Alaska.
“I’ve never landed at Luke before,” Domas said. “I was interested in attending this event to learn about the F-16s and safety, since I fly low and slow.”
Throughout the experience, common myths about Luke’s pilots and military pilots in general were put to rest.
“These guys fly planes that have many capabilities, but I learned they may not always know where I am and be able to avoid me in the air,” Domas said. “I understand now what they see and how they operate.”
Overall, the goal of the fly-in was to strengthen an already strong relationship with the local aviation community.
“By opening the lines of communication and making it fun and easy to communicate with the base through a civilian fly-in, local pilots were able to ask questions and express concerns directly to the source,” Naylor said. “I think this event was successful in doing just that.”