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Champlin Fighter Museum, Mesa Arizona Guide Arizona ANG 161st ARW, Phoenix

Mesa — Williams Gateway Airport
Arizona Aviation Museum Guide

Williams Gateway Airport
5835 S. Sossaman Rd.
Mesa, AZ 85212

There is currently only one display aircraft located on the site of the old Williams AFB. A Northrop T-38A-15-NO "Talon" (AF 59-1600) is mounted on a pole adjacent to the airport. The "Talon" is surrounded by a small memorial garden dedicated to those that served at Williams AFB. A special thanks to David Ritter and AFIA (A Friend In Arizona) for sending us the following photos. The photos by AFIA include a very nice "Walk Around" of the aircraft, plus underside details of the Northrop T-38A that modelers may enjoy. An last, let's never forget those who served and are serving our country.

(History) — The former Williams Air Force Base played a strategic role in America's aviation history. Over a span of 52 years, more than 26,500 men and women earned their wings at Williams. Gearing up for the combat pilot demands of World War II, the Army Air Corps broke ground in Southeast Mesa, Arizona for its Advanced Flying School on July 16, 1941. In February 1942, the growing military base's name was changed to Williams Field to honor Charles Linton Williams, an Arizona-born pilot. The facility was redesignated as Williams Air Force Base (WAFB) in January 1948. WAFB was the U.S. Air Force's foremost pilot training facility, graduating more student pilots and instructors than any other base in the country and supplying 25 percent of the Air Force's pilots annually. WAFB provided training for a variety of fighter and bomber aircraft including the AT-9, AT-17, P-38, AT-6, B-17, B-24, P-51, P-47, F-86, F-100, T-37 and T-38.

WAFB was closed in 1993 and created a loss of more than 3,800 jobs and $300 million in annual economic activity. The state and communities began work immediately to redevelop the base after the announcement of closure in 1991. The Governor's Economic Reuse Advisory Board was appointed by then Governor Fife Symington in 1991 to coordinate reuse efforts. The Williams Air Force Base Economic Reuse Plan was spearheaded by the Reuse Advisory Board and approved by the Governor of Arizona in 1992. The plan determined the base be developed as an aerospace center and an educational, research and training facility with the airport serving as a reliever to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Aviation uses identified included commercial passenger service, aircraft manufacturing, maintenance, modification, air cargo operations and flight training.

To work toward ownership and operation of the airport, an Intergovernmental Agreement Group (IGA) was established on Oct. 15, 1992. The IGA developed legislation to create the Williams Gateway Airport Authority (WGAA). The airport officially opened in March 1994 and the WGAA was established in May 1994; this allowed the IGA to be dissolved. In 2008, the name of the Airport was changed to Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, and in 2009, the Board voted to amend the Joint Powers Airport Authority Agreement allowing a name change to Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport Authority (PMGAA). Today, the PMGAA Board consists of the mayors from the Cities of Mesa and Phoenix, Towns of Gilbert and Queen Creek, and the Lt. Governor of the Gila River Indian Community.

Cooperation among the various jurisdictions surrounding Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, the campus and the business community, coupled with innovative planning efforts have all come together for the successful development of Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport for civilian use.

Special Thanks

A very special thanks to AFIA (A Friend in Arizona) for providing us with photos of the aircraft at this location.


  1. Williams Gateway Airport, Mesa, Arizona, website
  2. Wikipedia, Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport
  3. Google Earth, Satellite Image
  4. AFIA (A Friend in Arizona), Aircraft Photos
  5. Skytamer Images, Aircraft Thumbnail Images ©

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