MCAS Yuma is located in the Southwest of Arizona and very close to the Mexican border. The US Marines have mainly based F-35Bs here, but they also share this airfield with some civil charters, which operated from the other side of the airfield, named: Yuma Int. Airport. Because Yuma is that close to the border with Mexico, also the DEA, US Customs and the Southwest Border Alliance can be found at this airfield.
In September and especially October, the base houses many visiting aircraft in the latter stages of the yearly Weapons and Tactics Instructor course. For this the extra rampspace is filled with all current Marines types of helicopters, fighters and transports. An ideal time to visit.
The base has two parallel runways with a NE-SW orientation. The military ramps are to the Southeast of these. Starting in the Northeast corner you will find the base flight and helicopter hangars of VMX-1, first around the corner Southbound is the F-5 area followed by a stretched ramp littered with sunsheds for the F-35 fleet. Opposite the southern part of the main ramp there is a huge helicopter platform as well. This, along with the last huge ramp near the Southern perimeter are used during WTI courses only.
The small civil terminal in along the Northern perimeter, Northwest of the runways. West of the runways you can also find the general aviation and business aviation areas.
While driving on the I-8, you should take exit 3 (in Arizona). At the end of the exit take right to enter the S Avenue 3 E. Continue on this road untill you reach the intersection with the E. 32nd Street / Business loop 8 (green sign post 8). At this intersection you will see the airfield in front of you at the right.
1Landing runway 21 (morning)
This is a spot where you could photograph aircraft landing on runway 21 and is located along E 32nd Street/Business loop 8. If you turn right at the intersection of the S Avenue 3 E and E 32nd St you are already there. The spot is only suitable for photographing in the morning because the sun is then behind you. In the summer period the wind is mainly south so during this period the aircraft will land on 21L and 21R.
2Landing runway 21 (evening)
This spot is the most popular spot, it is the parking lot of the fairgrounds. Also located along E 32nd St, slightly further to the west as spot 1. Best time for this spot is the evening because the sun is then at your back. In the morning you will have the sun behind the aircraft.
From this spot you will have a view towards the "heavy aircraft" platform. To photograph those aircraft you will need stairs to get higher than the fence. For serials it requires strong bonoculars to read the F-35 under the sheds, albeit codes only. Only with favourable lighting conditions you may be able to read a couple of bunos. So the spot is only suitable in the morning (early morning for photographing) or evening. The location of this spot is in a restricted area so do not stay here too long. To get here from spot 1 and 2 follow E 32nd Street and take the first left (S Fortuna Ave) after you pass the airport.
Coming from the North, 32nd Street / business loop 8, go South on S Arizona Avn. Make a left before the main road turns right. You will be on a small road leading to some businesses. From the corner in the road you will have a different angle on the sheds for reading.
5Landing runway 3L
From here you will have a great view of of the landing on runway 3L. The spot is mainly suitable in the evening when the sun is at your back. You will get here if you follow E 32nd Street Westbound. Before the main road bends right, go left to keep following West 32nd St and take the first left (S 4th Ave). Follow this road until you reach the airfield.
This is a good location to shoot aircraft in the morning. If they are departing from runway 21, then you will get them with wheels-up. If they are landing on 3, then you will get them coming around on base, then final with wheels-down. This is also not a bad spot to shoot from in the afternoon. The sun will be behind you, for the most part. In the evening, you can get them on the downwind leg, before they turn final (many mm needed). If you are coming from the I-8, follow the S Avenue 3E. You will pass the airfield on your right. After you have passed the airfield you need to take the second to the right, E County 14th Street S. Follow this street and go left (before you cross the water) when you will see the base at your right.
Since this spot is located at a military gate / restricted area you can expect to be sent away by security. This spot is good in the morning until the afternoon for the approaches. In the winter it is also good in the evening because the sun is still at you back.
8South side view WFT ramp
Apart from spot 5, you can also get a view from the South of the large platform used by fast movers and transports during WTI courses. Simply follow the main roads counter-clockwise, from E County 14th Street you will be able to easily view the aircraft parked on this ramp. Along this road some views inside the hangars along this ramp are also possible.
9South side view (restricted)
Also on the South side, there is a road along the perimeter. This is 'blocked' by plastic barriers that can be circumnavigated. You should be able to get a different angle on the F-35 sheds from this road, E County 13th Street, although we have no confirmation of this spot yet.
10US AR NG detachment hangar view
The US Army National Guard uses a hangar on the civil side. In support of the US border control mission, some UH-72 Lakotas can be found here. If the hangar is open a small road off 40th Street will give you views inside. With some effort they can be read.
This VMX-1 F-35B 169915/MV-56 is seen on approach to runway 21L. (Erwin van Dijkman)
Test unit VMX-1 also uses the AH-1Z, this is 166759/MV-42. (Otger van der Kooij)
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