Storm Wrecks Aircraft, Buildings At Mesa Airport


By Myron Nelson

Dozens of aircraft and numerous buildings were damaged or destroyed when a windstorm hit Falcon Field (KFFZ) in Mesa, Arizona, on Tuesday evening.  Local officials said the storm was a microburst. Aircraft went airborne when the wind hit and many collided with others. The buildings damaged included historic hangars built in 1941 to house aircraft used to train British pilots for the war effort.

The field also houses one of the largest an initio flight schools in the world, Oxford CAE, and it lost several aircraft. The Commemorative Air Force Museum on the field doesn’t appear to have suffered any damage to its facilities or priceless aircraft.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. This was NOT a microburst! Ever since the NTSB decided that the crash of Delta Air Lines Flight 191 on Aug. 2. 1985 was caused by a microburst, that has been the excepted explanation for may plane crashes. But that is not the case in many plane crashes. There was a front passing through at the time of this event and there was a 66 Knot Jet Stream that caused a tornado. If one reads my new book titled, Science About How Tornadoes And Vortexes Form And How They Are Causing Planes To Crash (Including MH370) available from Barnes & Noble, one will understand just what we have not known for years.
    Ronald B. Hardwig, Professional Engineer

  2. Question is: WHY weren’t these aircraft chained?
    Mesa is not part of the Flatlands of the East Coast where winds in excess of 5 kt are considered a maelstrom.
    This is part of the Great Desert Southwest where 50 kt winds are the norm. There is NO excuse for aircraft being outside and NOT being CHAINED (unless the pilot is only stopped for a quick potty-break).

    • I am based at FFZ and all the aircraft were chained that I saw. The aircraft I got closest to had a tie down ring broken in half and the chain broke on the other side. Some chains pulled from the ground anchors. Many many sliding hangar doors came loose ( possibly due to inadequate pin depth) flew up and off the tracks and into other aircraft. IMHO all sliding doors should have at least one door that is pinned from the outside. These events are unpredictable, but they can be prepared for.

      • What do you mean by unpredictable? This kind of thing is more a when than an if.

        Haboobs come rushing through reasonably often, wreaking havoc. Monsoon thunderstorm waves pass through multiple times a year.

        Sure the exact date can’t be predicted terribly far in advance, but I don’t think one can say it’s unpredictable. This kind of stuff is bound to happen, especially during monsoon season.

  3. After a big blow causes damage to boats in a harbor, there is frequently an analysis of the damage patterns to understand what the biggest risks and risk mitigators are.

    Is there something like that done in aviation? As climate disruption increases through the rest of our lives, it would be nice to know what kind of knots, chains, ground anchors, operational patterns, etc… are linked to broken and destroyed aircraft and hangars.