Friday, May 7, 2010

Warthogs frolick over Santa Cruz Valley skies

by Hugh Holub
May 6, 2010

Tucsonans are used to seeing military planes flying into Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, or flying out. Generations of Tucsonans could talk about B-47s, U-2s and F-4's that flew over the city, especially if you lived under the flight path.

Lately there's been a lot of debate about whether or not a new generation of fighters will be based in the city, and how much noise they will generate. For those who attended the U of A in the 1960's we all remember all teaching stopping when the F-4s flew over the campus.

One of the mainstay aircraft operating out of DM is the A-10 "warthog", and ugly little ground support tank attacking critter that looks like it should be power by propellers.

Folks who drive out west of Tucson are also familiar with occasionally noticing a Warthog following them at low altitude on the road to Ajo out on the Tohono O'Odham Indian Reservation. We suspected they were pretending we were enemy tanks, and the pilots were making mock attack runs on our cars and trucks as they flew over to the Barry Goldwater bombing range west of Ajo.

Occasionally those of us who live in the southern end of the Santa Cruz River Valley (the "South Valley") see a couple of the Warthogs coming back east of Amado then heading north to the base.

Thus it was with some surprise and interest 4 Warthogs were seen around 9 AM frolicking at low altitude over I-19 south of Green Valley on Thursday.

Frolicking is the right word. These were not just straight line approach patterns. The fighters were circling, weaving around, and one even did a roll over as it passed over me on the freeway. It was almost like they were practicing aerobatics.

And when I talk of "low altitude" what I mean was the usual height of the Border Patrol choppers that routinely prowl the valley—a 1000 feet or so. Unless my memory serves me correct there is a minimum altitude these military jets are not supposed to fly below in the valley. If you look up photos of A-10s on Google you will see several in the sky (which cannot be used to illustrate this comment). Had I had my camera with me, I could have gotten just about one of those images…so that's the approximate distance involved.

We're a suspicious bunch in the South Valley. There really are black helicopters operating over our heads called Raven. One of the black helicopters circled over an outdoor dinner party we were having, low enough we could see the guys in the side door spying on us.

So seeing a bunch of military jets chasing each other around the skies like goldfish in a pond that close to the ground has to make you wonder what is the Air Force training pilots to do with the Warthogs now? Were these even DM planes, or some joy-flying visitors from another base.? I didn't bother to call Base Information because the last time I did that I ended up with a photo caption "4 unidentified colonels inspect wreckage of F-4" and got encouraged to try a new career by the Tucson Citizen's managing editor.


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