Pinal Airpark

Pinal Airpark (IATA: MZJ, ICAO: KMZJ, FAA LID: MZJ), also known as Pinal County Airpark, is a non-towered, county-owned, public-use airport located 8 miles (7.0 nmi; 13 km) northwest of the central business district of Marana, in Pinal County, Arizona, United States.[1] Silverbell Army Heliport (FAA LID: 02AZ)[3] is co-located with Pinal Airpark. The heliport is a private-use military facility operated by the Arizona Army National Guard.

Pinal Airpark

Marana Army Airfield
Pinal Airpark from the air.jpg
Overflight of Pinal Airpark (center) and Silverbell Army Heliport (right) in 2018
Airport typePublic
OwnerPinal County
ServesMarana, Arizona
Elevation AMSL1,893 ft / 577 m
Coordinates32°30′35″N 111°19′31″W / 32.50972°N 111.32528°W / 32.50972; -111.32528Coordinates: 32°30′35″N 111°19′31″W / 32.50972°N 111.32528°W / 32.50972; -111.32528
KMZJ is located in Arizona
Location of Pinal Airpark
KMZJ is located in the United States
KMZJ (the United States)
Direction Length Surface
ft m
12/30 6,849 2,088 Asphalt
Statistics (2020)
Aircraft operations (year ending April 1)58,200
Silver Bell Army Heliport
Arizona dema logo.png
TypeUS Army heliport
Site information
OwnerDepartment of Defense
OperatorArizona Army National Guard
Site history
In use1986 – present
Garrison information
Airfield information
IdentifiersFAA LID: 02AZ
Elevation1,868.6 feet (570 m) AMSL
Number Length and surface
H1 100 feet (30 m) asphalt
H2 100 feet (30 m) asphalt
H3 100 feet (30 m) asphalt
H4 165 feet (50 m) asphalt

Pinal Airpark's primary function is to serve as a boneyard for civilian commercial aircraft, where the area's dry desert climate mitigates corrosion of the aircraft. It is the largest commercial aircraft storage and heavy maintenance facility in the world.[4] Even so, many aircraft which are brought here wind up being scrapped. Nearby the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base provides the same service to the United States federal government.

Aircraft at Pinal Airpark include those formerly operated by Cathay Dragon, Cathay Pacific, Delta Air Lines, Northwest Airlines, Aerosur, Hellenic, Surinam Airways,[5] and other carriers.[additional citation(s) needed]


Built in 1942 by the Sundt and Del Webb Construction Companies and opened in March 1943, the facility was known as Marana Army Air Field. During World War II, the airfield was under the command of the 389th Army Air Force Base Unit, AAF West Coast Training Center and used as a training base, as part of the 50,000 Pilot Training Program.

Marana conducted basic flight training and the training of transport pilots in instrument flying and navigation, being the home of the 3024th (Pilot School, Basic). Chinese pilots were also trained there. Five satellite airfields were established for Marana during World War II:

The infrastructure installed at Marana during World War II was extensive. This included water, sewer, and gas systems that were still used until some problems developed in the 1990s. There was also a massive storm drain system. The airfield also had a railroad spur line and railroad station.

Marana was closed after World War II and in 1948, after the establishment of the U.S. Air Force as an independent service, Pinal County accepted a deed to the property, subsequent to the Air Force's disposal of most of the buildings, waterlines, gas lines, and electrical lines. From 1948 to 1951, Pinal County leased the property to multiple tenants, and from 1951 to 1956, Marana was reused as a contractor-operated USAF basic flying school, operated by Darr Aeronautical Technical Company.

Marana became the headquarters of all Central Intelligence Agency air operations during the Vietnam War years, when it was the primary facility of Intermountain Airlines, a wholly owned CIA "front" company which was used to supply covert operations in Southeast Asia and elsewhere. Intermountain was infamous for its thinly veiled CIA special ops which included development and use of the Fulton Skyhook, but its cover was its non-scheduled freight and maintenance operations. Marana was the principal continental United States maintenance base for Southeast Asia CIA operations including Air America and Continental Air Services. The Marana facility was subsequently acquired by Evergreen International Airlines which performed aircraft modification and maintenance at the airfield.[citation needed]

Pinal Airpark was also the first home of Marana Skydiving Center operated by Greg Berhens and Tony Frost before moving to Avra Valley Airport in 1991.

Current usageEdit

Pinal AirportEdit

The airport is home to many private companies including: Ascent Aviation Services and Jet Yard Solutions,[7][8] Aircraft Demolition, and Jet Yard.[9]

Since the early 2010s, airport economic development director Jim Petty has opened the facility to the public, giving free tours of the airport and the airplanes stored there.[10]

Silverbell Army HeliportEdit

Pinal Airpark is co-located with Silverbell Army Heliport (SAHP). The 98th Aviation Troop Command, the Western Army National Guard Aviation Training Site (WAATS) and other numerous Army National Guard units are located inside SAHP.[11][12] WAATS discontinued training of the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter at the site in 2012.[13] Currently WAATS provides training for the UH-72A Lakota.[14]

Pinal Airpark and SAHP also hosts the US Special Operations Command's Parachute Training and Testing Facility.[15] On 28 March 2013, Navy SEAL Brett Shadle was killed during parachute training here and another SEAL was injured.[16]

Facilities and aircraftEdit

Pinal Airpark covers an area of 1,508 acres (610 ha) at an elevation of 1,893 feet (577 m) above mean sea level. It has one runway designated 12/30 with an asphalt surface measuring 6,849 by 150 feet (2,088 by 46 m). Silverbell Army Heliport has four helipads, three measuring 100 by 100 feet (30 by 30 m), and the fourth measuring 165 by 165 feet (50 by 50 m). For the 12-month period ending 1 April 2020, the airport had 58,200 aircraft operations, an average of 159 per day: 86% military and 14% general aviation.[1]

Notable aircraftEdit

One of the notable aircraft assigned to Marana during its CIA years was a Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress, AAF Serial 44–85531. As of September 1957, the aircraft was registered to Western Enterprises Inc., a paramilitary front company founded by the CIA in 1951 for operations in Taiwan. In late 1957, missions were staged from Kurmitola Air Field in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) to parachute agents into Tibet. The aircraft was disassembled for parts at Clark Air Base, Philippines between March and October 1958, and it is believed that this plane was eventually scrapped. The serial number 44-85531 appeared again as registered on another B-17G, 1 September 1960 registered to Atlantic General Enterprise, Washington DC (another CIA front) as N809Z. These registration numbers were then changed to the true numbers of 44–83785. Based again at Marana, this aircraft later flew black operations over Vietnam and was used to retrieve two American agents from an abandoned Soviet scientific base in the Arctic using the Fulton Skyhook in Operation Coldfeet.[17]

Boeing 777 salvage, Pinal Air Park 2018


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c FAA Airport Form 5010 for MZJ PDF. Federal Aviation Administration. Effective 8 April 2010.
  2. ^ Center of Military History,
  3. ^ "AirNav: 02AZ – Silver Bell Army Heliport". Retrieved 2021-03-05.
  4. ^ "Evergreen Maintenance Center, Inc. Appoints Colin Buxton As Vice President of Sales And Marketing". Retrieved 2014-01-12.
  5. ^ "Photos: Boeing 747-306M Aircraft Pictures". 2013-05-21. Retrieved 2016-02-14.
  6. ^ a b Freeman, Paul (5 May 2021). "Arizona: Northern Tucson area". Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields. Retrieved 26 September 2021.
  7. ^ Pallini, Thomas (July 5, 2021). "Amazon and cargo airlines are scouring the Arizona desert for old and cheap passenger jets to fly packages". Business Insider. Retrieved 2021-07-11.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  8. ^ Services, Ascent Aviation. "Narrow & Wide Body Aircraft MRO, Storage & Reclamation Services | Ascent Aviation Services". Retrieved 2021-03-05.
  9. ^ "Home – JetYard". JetYard, LLC. Retrieved 2021-03-05.
  10. ^ "Pinal Airpark: Once-secretive aircraft boneyard slowly opens its gates". 2015-03-27. Retrieved 2016-02-14.
  11. ^ "Silverbell Army Heliport: Military Asset List 2015" (PDF). Luke AFB govt site.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  12. ^ "98th Aviation Troop Command | Department of Emergency and Military Affairs". Retrieved 2021-03-05.
  13. ^ "History of the Western AATS". Western ARNG Aviation Training Site. Archived from the original on June 23, 2007. Retrieved June 13, 2007.
  14. ^ "WAATS – Western ARNG Aviation Training Site". Retrieved 2021-03-05.
  15. ^ Arizona Daily Star (Tucson), September 7, 2008, p. 1.
  16. ^ "Brett Shadle Dead: Navy SEAL Killed In Arizona Parachuting Accident". 30 March 2013. Archived from the original on 2013-11-11. Retrieved 2014-01-12.
  17. ^ "Pinal Airpark in Arizona". Retrieved 2021-03-05.

Other sourcesEdit

External linksEdit