Step inside the Phoenix Goodyear Airport (GYR) and take a step back in time. Just a few miles from Estrella, tour guests are immediately greeted by walls lined with pictures from decades long gone, documenting the area’s rich history in cotton farming and war-time contributions. The airport’s cozy, unassuming entrance and offices stand in sharp contrast to the bustle of activity and expansive impact the airport has on the region. Plus, this West Valley hidden gem is on the brink of incredible growth and expansion.
Though located in Goodyear, this small but mighty municipal airport is owned by the City of Phoenix. It’s one of seven airports in the area including Chandler, Mesa-Gateway, Falcon Field, Scottsdale, Deer Valley, Glendale and of course, Sky Harbor. The airport opened in the fall of 1941 just weeks before the onset of the U.S. involvement in World War II. Initially known as the Naval Air Facility Litchfield Park, it soon became a hub for the U.S. Navy and was used as a location to test, fly and deliver aircraft during the war. This required the construction of a landing field, hangar, and runway. At the end of the war and for two decades following, the airport was used to preserve and restore aircraft with as many as 5,000 airplanes on site at one time. The airport was once again called to duty during the Korean war, then from 1965-1968 the 800-acre airport sat on the U.S. surplus list and all remaining aircraft was moved to Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson. In 1968 the City of Phoenix purchased the land for $550,000 with the intention of using it as a general aviation reliever airport.
While no commercial flights operate out of GYR, dozens of commercial aircraft are stored and maintained there much to the amusement of curious passersby. Some of these aircraft have reached the end of their flight life and will be destructed and used for parts or recycled. Other aircraft are surplus from the various airlines, and some are used for first responder and investigative training. The airport is home to two flight schools, United’s Aviate Academy and Fly Goodyear. For decades Lufthansa Airline operated a flight school at GYR but suspended their operation during the COVID-19 pandemic. United Airlines has taken over the dorm and classroom space for their Aviate Academy. That academy is rapidly growing and United intends to expand their operation at GYR. The German Air Force also trains at GYR and houses several pilots in the on-site dorms.
The aircraft that do fly in and out of Goodyear are a combination of pilot training planes and private jets. Lux Air operates a large hangar on the property and facilitates luxury travel for a variety of clients. As these on-site operations grow, so does the airport itself. Goodyear Airport is quickly on pace to reach 160,000 takeoffs and landings in 2022. When the Valley hosts large events such as NASCAR races, Final Four tournaments and, of course, the Super Bowl, GYR will be lined with private jets bringing celebrities and other high-profile people to Arizona. Clement Copeland, Airport Operations Technician, said in just the last few years he has assisted several high-profile people including John Travolta, Martha Stewart and Shaquille O’Neal.
The airport is currently home to nearly 500 employees but plans for expansion will increase that number to around 650 over the next several years. Currently, the airport is occupied by business tenants including AerSale, United Aviate Academy, Lux Air Jet Centers, the Fly Goodyear flight school and the air traffic control tower. The look of the airport will change as well with the development of surrounding open space. The land around the airport had historically been used for farming, primarily cotton farming, but that has decreased significantly. In the last year, the 500 acres just north of the airport has been built out, the 170 acres west of it is under construction, and the 585 acres to the south will be developed within a few years.
“I’ve never been more excited about the future of Phoenix Goodyear Airport. We have high quality, diverse businesses operating and expanding at the airport. We also have more development interest we are actively working on to bring more business and jobs to the airport,” said Goodyear Airport Manager Bradley Hagen. “In addition, we are actively working on sustainability initiatives, and want to continue to have outreach and great partnerships with the community.”
Much of that development will include logistics businesses, but also retail, restaurant and even some residential. Additional growth on the airport property itself includes plans for FBO corporate hangars and a new B-767 aircraft parking apron as more commercial planes rely on GYR for maintenance and storage.
There is so much to see and learn at the Phoenix Goodyear Airport, and Estrella residents are welcome and encouraged to come in for a visit. While tours are most often given to youth groups including homeschool families, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, they welcome anyone who is interested in learning about the airport’s rich past and what lies ahead. Tours can be scheduled by calling the airport terminal or by inquiring on the website. The sky’s the limit, they say, and this couldn’t be truer for GYR.
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