Falcon Field Army Airfield
|Owner||City of Mesa|
|Elevation AMSL||1,394 ft / 425 m|
Falcon Field (IATA: MSC, ICAO: KFFZ, FAA LID: FFZ) is in Maricopa County, Arizona six miles northeast of Mesa, which owns it. The National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems for 2017-2021 categorized it as a reliever airport. Scheduled service to Bullhead City on Western Express Air ended in January 2007.
The Boeing Corporation operates a heliport (FAA LID: AZ81) and factory adjacent to Falcon Field, known as the Boeing Mesa Facility. Boeing uses the facility to manufacture and maintain the AH-64 Apache military helicopter.
Falcon Field got its start before World War II when Hollywood producer Leland Hayward and pilot John H. "Jack" Connelly founded Southwest Airways with funding from friends like Henry Fonda, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, James Stewart, Hoagy Carmichael and others. Southwest Airways operated two other airfields in Arizona -- Thunderbird Field No. 1 (now the site of Thunderbird School of Global Management) and Thunderbird Field No. 2 (now the site of Scottsdale Airport) -- to train pilots from China, Russia and 24 other Allied nations. Falcon was to be Thunderbird Field III and would train British pilots.
But the British said they'd like the field to be named after one of their birds, and thus Falcon Field opened as the No. 4 British Flying Training School (BFTS). There were six BFTS airfields in the U.S., in Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, California and Arizona.
In September 1941 the first cadets of the Royal Air Force arrived. They trained in Stearman PT-17s and North American Aviation AT-6s. The good weather, wide-open desert terrain, and lack of enemy airpower provided safer and more efficient training than was possible in England. Even so, twenty-three British cadets, one American cadet and four instructors were killed and are now buried in the Mesa City Cemetery, along with several colleagues who have since died of natural causes. Several thousand pilots were trained there until the RAF installation was closed at the end of the war. The City of Mesa purchased the field from the U.S. government for $1.
From 1945-65 the field was leased out to industrial interests, including Talley Defense Systems, Astro Rocket Inc., Rocket Power Inc., the Gabriel Company and others.
Eventually it became a civil airfield, and is now owned and operated by the city of Mesa. Falcon Field is the home of CAE Oxford Aviation Academy, the largest flight school in the world. Student pilots from Belgium, The Netherlands, the UK, Italy, Turkey and Vietnam fly out of Falcon Field. Since 1976 Falcon Field has been the home of Airbase Arizona, one of the largest units in the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) which operates a flying B-17G "Sentimental Journey" and a B-25J "Maid in the Shade" among other aircraft.