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Did You Know: Mesa Falcon Field Was A WWII Aviation Training Facility For British Airmen

Old photograph of an aircraft at Falcon Field in Mesa.
(Photo courtesy of Falcon Field Airport - City of Mesa)
Falcon Field in Mesa.

The Valley is home to several airports that date back to World War II. One is still in service today.

Just off the Red Mountain Freeway Loop 202 near Greenfield Road is Falcon Field, a north Mesa airport that was an aviation training facility during World War II. Did you know that Falcon Field was a U.S. military air field developed to train allied forces?

“This particular field was selected to train British Royal Air Force pilots," said Falcon Field Director Corinne Nystrom .

“There were a few thousand that we trained, 2,000 to 3,000," Nystrom said.

Before the United States became involved in WWII in 1941, it was committed to supporting allied forces.  Falcon Field was among a handful of aviation training facilities across the U.S. that opened to help prepare military airmen.

“This area here going down to McKellips Road was pretty much all of it. None of these buildings that we see in other parts of the airport, none of that was here. That was just still, just flat, dry desert," Nystrom said.

Falcon Field was a 500-acre facility. There were two Quonset hut style hangers, a control tower and two runways. The offices, sleeping quarters and the officers' club were in a square shaped campus south of the tower.

Nystrom said many believe the name Falcon Field came from the aviators themselves wanting a predatory bird as a symbol for their training and abilities.

“Mesa wasn’t as big as it is now, and so it was a pretty good drive to get from Mesa out here, which probably they did that intentionally so that cadets could really focus on their training," Nystrom said.

 There was also a pool in the middle of the campus.

“The story is that as soon as a pilot got his wings to fly, then one of the ways that they would indoctrinate them into, welcome (them) into, the pilot club would be to thrown them into the pool," Nystrom said.

When the war ended, the government decided it no longer needed Falcon Field, and sold it to the city of Mesa for $1 — with the condition it would remain an airport.

Today, the swimming pool is gone, and the only remaining relics of wartime are the two hangers and the fireplace from inside the officer’s club.

Falcon Field is one of the busiest general aviation airports in the U.S. It’s home to one of the largest pilot training agencies in the world, a WWII museum and Mesa Police's Aviation Unit.  It’s also the home of the Falcon Warbirds, a formation flying group that performs "missing man" flyovers at Valley cemeteries.

Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez was a reporter at KJZZ from 2008 to 2015.