A particularly great batch of entries this week. A reader writes:
Okay, I’ll go out on a limb here: it’s an airport.
I spent WAY too much time on Google Maps trying to find the right control tower and couldn’t do it. The terrain and vehicles scream North America, specifically the Mountain West. Initially I thought Montana, but couldn’t find a matching airport. The closest one I found was in New Mexico: Four Corners Regional Airport. The next closest was in California, but I forget which it was. We’ll call Four Corners Regional my official (but wrong) guess. I’m looking forward to seeing where it actually is. Canada, maybe?
Area 51? Desolate airbase in the middle of nowhere with ’60s military construction plus one suspiciously tall pine tree in an obviously arid region. Scrub-covered mountains in the distance remind me of growing up in the southwest. Actual location: Classified.
The key is the single juniper tree growing in the background. I undertook an exhaustive search for a Juniper Airport. And voila! – an airport in Juniper, New Brunswick, Canada. That there are mountains in the background of your photo, and that it shows no thick impenetrable forests surrounding the airport, is rather perplexing. As is the tower, where there isn’t really one at Juniper. But I’m absolutely positive the tree is the key, and I refuse to be thrown off track by a few minor inconsistencies.
Now then, if you could gift-wrap the book, that would be perfect. Thanks in advance.
The Supermax penitentiary in Florence, Colorado? I think I drove past this place once on vacation and thought it was ironic that such as dreadful place be placed in the middle of such a pretty area. Then again, it was desolate and I guess the point was if someone was going to bust out of a place like this they weren’t going to get very far. Anyways, I am probably off. I also assume the picture is taken from an admin building, which when you think about probably rules this place out. I mean, would they really let people take pictures of a prison from the inside looking out? Oh well, guessing is free.
Another Florence guesser:
I can’t wait to see the meticulous diagram of what window this was taken out of by some enterprising fellow who insists that he and his wife stayed there for a weekend in that precise cell block just last summer.
I’ve never written in before, and consider myself a proud lurker, even though I’ve been reading the Dish for years and often felt the itch of recognition on the weekly VFYW. But here I must succumb: Is this the airport in Moron, Mongolia? I took a transit through there in 1999 en route to Lake Khovsgal, in the north of the county. I’m sure my gut, which has no ability to or interest in Google-mapping, is probably way off. I’m sure it’s somewhere else in China, Chile, or Nevada. But I hereby stake my claim. Is there a term for a Dish reader who finally, after years, goes from lurking to emailing?
We call them Dishheads. Another:
I’m listening to my daughter’s orchestra rehearsal so I can’t conveniently confirm with my iPhone, but based on the appearance of those foothills and the wheat fields, I do believe that’s from the Fort Collins – specifically Loveland Airport, looking west-northwest. Wish there was more snow in those mountains.
Sent from my iPhone
My completely uneducated guess: Elko, Nevada. I can’t wait to see who the runner-up is after James Fallows identifies this county airport and perhaps explains how a passenger jet once landed there by mistake!
We looked for Jim lurking in the in-tray, but no luck, so Dish readers still have a chance of winning. Another:
OK, an airport. And a tree that often appears in Mediterranean climates. Not much to go on for a VFYW novice like me. My husband said “Africa” as soon as he saw it. As my sister is a scientist who specializes in the effects of urbanization on water in Mediterranean climates, I actually knew that South Africa has such a climate.
OK, so it’s part of northern Africa, but I need to narrow my options or I’ll be doing this all night. I found a helpful website that listed towns in South Africa to which you’d need to charter a flight. That sounded about right, given that this doesn’t look like, ahem, one of your major airports. (No offense – I just spend too way too much time flying out of Newark.)
I chose Oudtshoorn first because I couldn’t find images of any of these little airports … so it could be any – or none – for all I know. And second, because it just sounds great. Oudtshoorn. I don’t even care if I win – I’d just like to see The Dish mention Oudtshoorn. Oudtshoorn.
This looks like the airport outside of Nicosia, Cyprus, abandoned after the 1974 war and now a part of the Buffer Zone. Of course I’ve never actually been there, given that it’s in the Buffer Zone, but the mountains in the background look so much like the Kyrenia Mountains of North Cyprus that it seems worth a guess.
Just an immediate impression: the control tower made me think of the old Alameda Naval Air Station in Alameda, CA. I live in Oakland and was there recently at the St. George Distillery for a tour and a tasting of their spirits. They make Hanger One vodka, among other wonderful products. The Naval Air Station property is at the western end of Alameda island and looks out over San Francisco Bay to the city. Our tour was at 5pm, just as the sun was setting. After that we were ready for the tasting and stood at the lovely bar and looked out toward the lights of the city as we sipped their wonderful offerings.
Creech AFB, Henderson, Nevada? Topical given the recent highlighted interest in drone attacks. Creech is where many of the UAVs over AFG/PAK are controlled from.
Obviously an airfield of some kind, and the color scheme – desert khaki – is one that the US Air Force uses just about everywhere. Also, the partially-enclosed hangar is not something you often see at a civilian airport, and there’s generally too much orderliness to not be a military airfield. After looking at Air Force bases in the southwestern US, I have to rule those out because the control tower in the photo is too short to match that of Holloman AFB, Davis-Mothan AFB, Altus AFB, Vance AFB, Creech AFB, and five or six other candidates.
The aircraft itself is a bit odd in that if this is a military installation, the Air Force does not keep many twin-engine propeller aircraft in its inventory. Apparently that aircraft is the MC-12, and an AF.mil fact sheet reports we have only 40 in the inventory. News reports announced that the MC-12 recently did service at Kandahar, and that airfield received a new control tower not too long ago. Google Earth imagery is two years old, so perhaps that’s not of much use. The topography is consistent with Kandahar.
Final guess: the view is from a building adjacent to the old military air traffic control tower at Kandahar.
This is the Inyokern airport in Inyokern, California. The view is to the northwest, facing the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Beyond the airfield to the distant north, hidden behind the sign board, is Mt. Whitney. Out of view to the east is the Naval Air Weapons Station at China Lake. I’d better get this right, because (1) I set a scene in one of my novels at the Inyokern airport, (2) for two years I kept a USGS map of the area on my wall, and (3) my in-laws live a few miles down the road.
Thanks for running this contest. It’s always a highlight of my week.
This week’s contest is harder than I first thought. It seemed doable by brute force – how many towered airports are so near mountains? But now after long fruitless searching, I realize that the control tower may be inactive, making the sheer number of possibilities daunting. The closest I’ve found is Lewiston, Idaho, so I’ll go with it, hoping to be maybe in the same state at least.
Another nails the right state and airport:
Sierra Vista Municipal-Libby AAF Airport, Sierra Vista, Arizona. This looks like a view out of Base Operations from a window left of the central walkway from the flight ramp. We are looking past the control tower across the Ramada Ramp.
About a half-dozen readers correctly answered Libby. Another:
Sierra Vista Municipal Airport, Arizona? Oh please oh please oh please. The SV airport is about 30 miles from my home in Bisbee (a liberal oasis in a conservative desert). Rather than spend hours on the computer, I decided to drive over and confirm my suspicions. (Okay, okay, I confess that I secretly hoped to meet the submitting Dish reader too.) I’ve submitted guesses before – never even close – but I think I’ve got this one. This is the closest I could get, with a telephoto lens:
As you can see, it’s not a bustling airport.
OK, I’m a pilot so this one attracted my attention more than usual. I have the FAA charts and looked at all the towered airports in the West. Only one came close, Sierra Vista:
This is one for the aviation geeks for sure. While I would certainly count myself as one, I would not have been able to have figured this out without the assistance of one of the all-time greatest aviation geeks, my friend David at Aeromechanical Solutions.
This looks very American Southwest. The first real clue is the aircraft under the sun shade – it’s a Beechcraft King Air of some sort. The big black tip tanks and black nose give it away as an RC-12, which is a variant used by the Army for surveillance. So, we’re looking for an Army Airfield in the Southwest that would operate surveillance aircraft. Probably something close to the border with Mexico. Wikipedia gives us a nice list of AAFs in the US.
The first one that caught my eye was Laguna Army Airfield, but that does not have a control tower. The very next one is Libby Army Airfield at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. This one does indeed have a control tower. Not only that, right in front of the control tower are some sun shades, and on Google Earth there is clearly an RC-12 sitting right out in front of one! The control tower is white and six-sided, just like the one in the photo, and there is a courtyard with what looks like hedges next to it. Bingo. The photo looks to be taken from the first floor. In the lower right corner there is a tiny bit of plant sticking up – I’m guessing that’s a tiny bit of the foliage seen near the building in Google Earth. The shadow also backs up this idea – it jogs in to follow the roofline. So I would place the window somewhere along the section of the building in the attached screen shot:
None of the Libby entrants have answered a difficult window in the past without winning, so to break the tie this week, we counted the number of contests each of them have participated in. The following reader wins with seven:
The Google satellite shot shows a tree that’s no longer there. This was obviously an airport, but I’m a General Aviation pilot so I knew the tower wasn’t the size or type you see at large fields. I looked all over the Southwest US for airfields big enough to have a control tower (Class C or D) but not too large given the size of the tower in the photo. Libby AAF looked pretty close, but I had my doubts, mostly because of that missing tree.
I found a couple of training videos on the airport website showing planes landing there, but the tower was never close enough in the videos to see details that would verify it. Then I saw another video of an F-16 landing and if I paused at just the right moment I could see the tower a little more clearly, but could also see the open-walled hangars. That gave me more hope. I hoped I find some kind of brochure or picture set on the website and that led me to this pdf. That was the Holy Grail for this VFYW because it showed the tower (and light pole with three lights) up close and from a slightly different angle. It even shows an aicraft of the same type (RC12 Huron) in the hangar (3rd photo).
The photographer must be either military or a civilian contractor to have access to that VFYW. Fort Huachuca is the US Army’s test and training center for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).