Fighter jets flying out of commercial civilian airports.

I was flying out of the Tucson airport a couple weeks ago. As I was hanging around the concourse waiting to be herded onto my flying sardine tin, I noticed something taking off out of the corner of my eye that seemed a lot faster and smaller than a commercial airliner. Further observation confirmed that a runway was seemingly being used by military fighter aircraft. I later learned that the 162nd Fighter Wing of the Arizona Air National Guard does F-16 fighter training out of Tucson International. And apparently there was a possibility that they were going to do F-35 training, but they picked Luke AFB instead.

How common is it that they conduct military operations out of a commercial airport? Does it create any complications for air traffic control at those airports?

I did undergrad at North Dakota State University in Fargo in the late 80’s/early 90’s. The Air National Guard flew out of Hector Field, same airport used for commercial aviation. Not a terribly busy airport, so it was commonplace for the guard planes to do several touch-and-go landings after returning from maneuvers; they’d do their approach and then touch down only briefly (if at all) before applying power to go around again. Sometimes they’d stay low and pop up hard and fast when they came past the end of the runway, which was pretty close to the student dorms.

In St. Louis the Air National Guard operate a mid-west hub. It is fairly routine to see fighter jets. In addition, there are defense contractors in the surrounding area. Your post makes it sound like you are alarmed by their presence? What gives?

Not alarmed. I just found it curious. I don’t fly all that often, but most commercial airports I’ve been at don’t seem to have fighters flying in and out of them, rather than using a military base.

In Australia, I’ve flown into and out of three joint military-civilian airports: Canberra (CBR), Newcastle (NTL) and Wagga Wagga (WGA). I assume that air traffic control just tries to keep the civilian and military aircraft away from each other, while allowing military aircraft to do things that civilians would never be allowed to do: I once saw two military jet aircraft landing and taking off simultaneously side by side on the same runway at Newcastle Airport, a trick that might scare the paying customers if done by civilian aircraft.

Those weren’t military flights, they were flights for the airlines super first class passengers. Drink service is horrible, but you get to your destination MUCH quicker.

To add to the list, both Duluth and Colorado Springs have military operations at their primary airports. I would guess that mostly you will see this in smaller cities where the commercial civilian traffic is very light and the combined operations keeps the airport fiscally viable.

Here in Columbus there is a National Guard wing at Rickenbacker, which is fairly busy cargo operation. But that is a leftover of the field’s time as an actual military base.

Albuquerque airport and Kirtland air force base share runways.

I used to fly into Jacksonville, FL, fairly often for my job. There’s an Air National Guard unit which operates at the Jacksonville airport. It was pretty cool to taxi past F-15s.

O’Hare had an Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve base until 1999.

The Montana Air National Guard is based out of Great Falls International Airport even though there’s a perfectly good (and these days underutilized) Air Force base on the other side of town.

Bradley International Airport also has Guard units, both Air National Guard and Army National Guard. The ARNG has the 126th Aviation Regiment with its Chinooks and Blackhawks, while the ANG has the 118th Airlift Squadron’s C-21’s (a military version of a Learjet 35). That unit used to be 118th Fighter Squadron operating A-10 Warthogs until the last round of BRAC.

The Air National Guard actually bases many flying squadrons at joint military/civilian airports, making this kind of thing more common than you might imagine. A brief list of some notable civilian airports with Air Guard squadrons:
Nashville International Airport/105th Airlift Squadron (C-130)
Birmingham International Airport/108th Air Refueling Squadron (KC-135)
Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport/109th Airlift Squadron (C-130)
Atlantic City International Airport/119th Fighter Squadron (F-16C)
Tulsa International Airport/125th Fighter Squadron (F-16C)
General Mitchell International Airport (Milwaukee)/126th Air Refueling Squadron (KC-135)
Portland (Maine) International Airport/132d Air Refueling Squadron (KC-135)
Pittsburgh International Airport/146th & 147th Air Refueling Squadrons (KC-135)
Tucson International Airport/148th &152nd Fighter Squadrons (F-16)
Memphis International Airport/155th Airlift Squadron (C-21)
Charlotte/Douglas International Airport/156th Airlift Squadron (C-130)
Jacksonville International Airport/159th Fighter Squadron (F-15C)
Sky Harbor International Airport/197th Air Refueling Squadron (KC-135)

Some of these are major hubs, like Charlotte/Douglas and Sky Harbor. Some ANG units flying from joint bases have unique capabilities. E.g.,Schenectady County Airport is home to the the only unit in the entire USAF flying ski-equipped LC-130’s.

I think it’s a travesty, though, that the unit based at General Mitchell doesn’t have any bombers. :wink:

Similar toEllington Airport, near Houston. As Ellington Field, it trained fliers during 2 world wars. Afterwards, it was Ellington AFB. Now it is part of Houston’s municipal airport system. But TANG, the Coast Guard & NASA still use it.

Add Palm Springs International to the list. We see ANG fighters staging out of there all the time.

Northwest Florida Regional Airport, which is serves the Fort Walton/Destin area of the Florida panhandle makes use of the rather extensive Eglin Air Force Base runways. In this case, I’m willing to bet there are a lot more military aircraft movements than civilian here.

New Jersey’s 119th Fighter Squadron of the 177th Fighter Wing flies F-16s out of Atlantic City International Airport.

I fly a lot, and as **PaperBackWriter **posted, this is actually pretty common. And he/she just listed a handful of Air National Guard wings. The Army National Guard has aircraft based at my local airport (Rochester, NY). I’m guessing the Marine Corps and Navy reserves also have aircraft based at commercial airports.

Fresno Yosemite has an ANG wing stationed there as well, 144th Fighter wing.

Ellington has commercial flights? I’ve been flying in and out of Houston for years but I’ve never seen any flight going anywhere except Intercontinental and Hobby. Does Ellington only fly local routes?

Very common. Zero problems.

Also Northeast Florida Regional Airport (formerly St Augustine). I flew there as part of my PPL training. There was a huge amount of military aircraft movement. It was a bit thrilling as a student pilot in a Cessna 150 to be lining up behind fighter jets. They have a Class I controller and he was kept very busy and to be honest was quite impatient with the student pilots flying in from Ormond Beach.

In New England, there’s Portsmouth International (formerly Pease AFB), still home to the KC-135’s of the 157th Air Refueling Wing, NHANG, and Westfield-Barnes Municipal, home to the F-15’s of the 105th Fighter Wing, MANG. At both towers, the controllers are provided by USAF, not the FAA, and they do a few small things differently from civilians (like including “Check wheels down” in every landing clearance - not an issue in the plane I usually fly). And it does get a little, um, disconcerting to share the pattern with planes that could suck me up and spit me out without even using their weapons. But both fields do have predominantly civilian traffic.