fun and free in tucson air force heritage flight training

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Tucson is an Air Force town, so seeing military jets is a normal thing around here. To us, it sounds like home.

But once a year, the skies over Tucson rumble and roar with a distinct sound: that of WWII, Korea, Vietnam-era, and modern fighter planes tearing up the sky together.

Davis Monthan Air Force Base hosts the annual Heritage Flight training, where civilian and Air Force pilots train and gain certification to take part in air shows.

The event isn’t open to the public, but for 4 days, the planes fly directly over Tucson. You can’t miss them, so it’s kind of like getting a free air show.

p51 p38 p47 f22 group tucson heritage flight
P-51 (right top), P-47 (left top), P-38 (middle top), F-22 (bottom)

We like to use the event as an opportunity to support the Pima Air & Space Museum because they graciously allow you to loiter in their parking lot to observe Heritage Flight. It’s a great vantage point, as the museum is directly across the street from the Air Force base and the planes fly over the museum a lot.

Pima Air & Space is dog-friendly, has an on-site restaurant, and there’s always something new to see and learn. We purchase a membership every year, and we love using it during Heritage Flight training to eat at the Flight Grill, visit the gift shop, and see the new exhibits.

The aircraft that show up to Heritage Flight training are different every year. This year, the F-35 Lightning II, F-22 Raptor, F-16 Viper and A-10 Thunderbolt II demonstration teams participated.

In past years, we’ve seen the T-33, P-38, P-51 Mustang, P-40, P-47, F-86, and the Flying Dump truck (A-1 Skyraider).

t 33 heritage flight tucson
T-33 Shooting Star

The planes that always make an appearance are the F-35 and the F-22. The F-35 is so loud, it sets off car alarms in the parking lot of the museum. Watching it and the F-22 twist, turn, and seemingly defy gravity as they hover in the air never gets old.

Observing the pilots as they put in the work to display United States air history is a treat. One can only imagine the logistics and skill involved to fly 70-year-old planes in formation with the latest fighter jet technology.

Heritage Flight training usually takes place in Tucson the last week of February or the first week of March each year. The dates are announced on the Heritage Flight website a few months in advance.

Where to Watch Heritage Flight Training

We like posting up at the air and space museum parking lot off East Valencia Road, but there are a few other good viewing options around town as well:

East Escalante Road

South Wilmot Road

Golf Links Road & South Alvernon Way

If you’re an aviation nerd like us, and you’re in the Tucson area in March, we hope you’ll check out Heritage Flight training. Please consider supporting the air and space museum if you do!

f-86 sabre jets flying at heritage flight training in tucson arizona
F-86 Sabre


What is a Heritage Flight in the Air Force?

Heritage flights are a way to honor past and current Air Force personnel by flying historic aircraft in formation with modern warplanes.

What is the US Heritage Flight team?

The US Heritage Flight Team is a group of people who fly historic aircraft in order to preserve the history of aviation. They are also responsible for educating and inspiring future generations about the importance of aviation and its impact on world events.

What planes are in the Air Force Heritage Flight team?

Civilian pilots fly with active duty USAF personnel with these classic aircraft: P-51 Mustang, F-86 Sabre, P-38 Lightning, P-40 Warhawk, P-47 Thunderbolt, and the A-1 Skyraider.

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