usa Western ARNG Aviation Training Site

Marana, Arizona

0.833102AZ Silverbell Army Heliport, Arizona
1.0130KMZJ Marana Pinal Airpark, Arizona
44.1160KRYN Ryan Field, Arizona
44.713565AZ St Marys Hospital, Arizona
53.3114 Sabino Canyon, Arizona
57.4132KDMA Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona

1986 to present

32° 30' 55.80'' N - 111° 19' 58.80'' W
Silverbell Army Heliport
Elevation: 1893 feet

The name WAATS is an acronym that stands for Western Army National Guard Aviation Training Site, or alternately Western Army Aviation Training Site. It is located at the Silverbell Army Heliport, which itself is located on a corner of the Pinal Airpark (KMZJ), on the edge of city of Marana, Arizona. With the concept dating back to 1978, the WAATS was founded on 1 October 1986, with the specific mission to train various aviation missions to the citizen soldiers of the Army National Guard (ARNG). It is under the control of the National Guard Bureau and is operated by the Arizona National Guard. Of course, all training standards are under the supervision of the U.S. Army Aviation Center, at Fort Rucker, Alabama. It was declared fully operational in 1990 The WAATS is very well situated and equipped to complete its assigned mission. Pinal Airpark is privately owned by Evergreen Aviation, and the WAATS is one of several tenants using the airport. Its desert location means near perfect weather year round, and the fact that the facility is located in a desert means that the flight training area is unencumbered by noise sensitive, no fly areas. In March 2010, the WAATS had a fleet of 14 Hughes (now Boeing) AH-64A Apaches and 13 Bell OH-58A/C Kiowas. On loan from the collocated 1 Battalion, 285th Regiment (1-285 Attack Helicopter Battalion) of the Arizona ARNG are eight AH-64D Apache Longbows, while three additional Longbows are on loan from Fort Rucker. The WAATS has a state of the art simulator complex housing full motion/full visual simulators, including the AH-64 Combat Mission Simulator and the Bell AH-1 Cobra Flight Weapons Simulator, although the latter is not in use as much today as it was when the Cobra was active. When it comes to actual live fire weapons training the WAATS uses the East Tactical Range (East TAC), which is part of the U.S. Air Force Barry M. Goldwater Range. During weapons training student and instructor fly from Silverbell AHP, and then stage out of the Gila Bend Air Force Auxiliary Field on the Goldwater Range. The WAATS also uses one outlying airfield, Picacho Stage Field, for routine flight training. Students attending a course at the WAATS stay in a modern dormitory and classroom building on the site. Today (2010), the WAATS teaches a wide variety of courses, with emphasis on the attack and aeroscout missions. Courses include basic aviator transition qualification, instructor pilot qualification and maintenance test pilot qualification for the AH-64A and D Apache, and the Bell OH-58A/C Kiowa. Additionally, several support personnel training courses, such as operational specialist and helicopter repairman, are offered. Traditionally, the WAATS has been geared toward the needs of the Army National Guard. However, with the commencement of the AH-64D Longbow aviator and instructor pilot transition courses in 2009, the WAATS has started to train on front line, active duty aircraft. Cheers, Dave Powers
If you zoom in on the GoogleMap above, Silverbell AHP, the WAATS and the Arizona ARNG Army Aviation Support Facility (AASF), are all located on the north point of Pinal Airpark, which is sometimes referred to as Marana Airpark. As can be seen, Pinal Airpark is also a huge airliner storage facility. If you zoom out a bit you will find a lone peak called Picacho Peak State Park, about 10 miles to the northwest of Silverbell AHP. This is the large, black tear drop shaped area on the maps. Just off the northern portion of the park, and slightly to the west, you will find the Pichacho Stage Field Heliport, with its four closely spaced, north/south runways. On a heavy training day, this stage field is literally buzzing with helicopters. Cheers, Dave Powers

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