By Lauren Scott, CFI
One of the greatest benefits of flying general aviation planes out of Henderson Executive Airport is the variety of exciting destinations that can be reached in just a few hours (or less!). Our location in the Las Vegas Valley puts us in close proximity to world-famous national parks, national recreation areas, beaches, deserts, ski slopes, canyons, and mountains. Whether you enjoy the outdoors, dining, or upscale resorts, when you fly out of Henderson there are plenty of locations from which to choose. Read on for more information on some of the nearby airports club members enjoy flying into. As always, please consult the chart supplement and other FAA-approved publications for the most current flight planning information.
50-100 Nautical Miles
Bullhead City, Arizona KIFP
Distance from Henderson: 57 nm
Bullhead City is on the east side of the Colorado River, 57 nautical miles southeast of Henderson. A sister city to Laughlin, Nevada directly across the river, Bullhead and Laughlin are known for their water sports, fishing, and small community of casinos in Laughlin. The weather is similar to Las Vegas, and the proximity to the water makes this a popular destination for pilots. There are many dining options in the towns of Bullhead and Laughlin. The surrounding scenery on approach and departure from IFP is breathtaking. Check out www.visitarizona.com/places/cities/bullhead-city/ for more information.
Good to Know
While KIFP is a class D airport with daytime tower operations and generally low traffic volume, they do have scheduled commercial flights into the airport in large passenger jets like B737s. It’s also a popular destination for student pilot operations from other locations. The wind can pick up unexpectedly due to nearby terrain and the river and become quite gusty. Small piston aircraft can expect a $29 handling fee, which can be reduced to $5 with a purchase of at least 10 gallons of fuel. There is also a courtesy car for pilots to use for up to 2 hours on a first-come, first serve basis. Please see www.flyifp.com for more airport details.
Grand Canyon West, 1G4
Distance from KHND: 64 nm
Grand Canyon West airport is located 64 nm east of Henderson. Owned and operated by the Hualapai tribe and located on their reservation, the airport is home to many helicopter, airplane, and bus tours. The famous Skywalk is located just ½ mile from the airport, but please note that purchased tour tickets are required for anyone leaving airport property. Even if not leaving the airport, the scenery is absolutely breathtaking flying into and out of Canyon West. Being so close to Henderson, it really is a must-see airport for the scenery. If you are going to do a lot of flying over the rest of the Grand Canyon, it is a good stopping point to stretch your legs and use the restroom before continuing your flight.
Good to Know
Depending on the season, Canyon West can be VERY busy with tour traffic, so monitor the radio carefully and make recommended radio reports for this class G airport. There are nice restrooms, a snack bar, and a large gift shop available, with no landing fees. There is no fuel, and tie-downs may not be available, so bring some straps with you if you plan to stay for a while. Please see www.grandcanyonwest.com for more airport and amenity details.
Kingman, AZ KIGM
Distance from KHND: 72 nm
Kingman, Arizona started as an old railroad town located 72 nm to the southeast of Henderson, just north of the I-40. History buffs will appreciate a visit to this field which was developed in WWII as one of the largest aerial gunnery training bases in the U.S. Following the war, it became one of the largest reclamation sites for obsolete military aircraft. Today, there are still hundreds of aircraft in storage at the airport due to a surplus of market demands. Many are maintained in an airworthy condition, awaiting a return to service. A popular time to fly in is in October, when the airport holds the Kingman AirFest, a fly-in and airshow hosted by EAA chapter 765. All year, pilots can also enjoy a delicious breakfast food or a hamburger at the Kingman Airport Cafe located right on the airfield overlooking the runways. www.visitarizona.com/places/cities/kingman/ is a great resource.
Good to Know
Kingman is located within a fairly quiet class G area. According to pilots, the crew car may or not be available, and FBO service hours can be limited, so call ahead if you plan to need either one. Look out for the steep rising mountains to the west. The biggest draws for this airport are the restaurant and the surplus aircraft. Downtown Kingman also has a number breweries, restaurants and shopping located right on Route 66. Several wineries are a short drive north of the airport. Please see www.kingmanairport.com for more airport details.
Mesquite, NV 67L
Distance from KHND: 73 nm
Mesquite Municipal Airport is 73 nm northeast of Henderson near the borders with Arizona and Utah. Mesquite is right along the I-15, a growing town of about 17,000 residents. It is known for its handful of casinos, and seven golf courses. Some of the casinos offer reasonably-priced spa or golf and stay packages. The airport is beautiful, located on a mesa above the town. Please see www.visitmesquite.com for more details on nearby activities.
Good to Know
Most of the time, the Mesquite airport is a quiet class G airport, but they do have parachuting operations right on the field, as well as hosting occasional fly-ins and auto shows at the airport, so be prepared before you visit. There is a good restaurant at the golf course adjacent to the airport. A short ride on a golf cart will deliver you right to the doorstep, and there may also be a courtesy car. Be familiar with the calm-wind operations; runway 02 is on quite an upslope with steep terrain at the departure end, so it’s definitely best to follow the recommended procedures. The airport has more information on their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/mesquiteairport67l/
Furnace Creek & Stovepipe Wells, Death Valley National Park, CA
L06 & L09
Distance from KHND: 90 nm
Furnace Creek is located 90 nm northwest of Henderson. The Furnace Creek airport is within Death Valley National Park, and is maintained by the National Park Service. The original airfield was built in 1929, served as an emergency landing site for military aircraft during WWII, and brought tourists in to see the park. The current airport was built in 1954, and has the distinction of being the airport at the lowest elevation in North America, at 210’ below sea level. The landscapes of Death Valley are truly magnificent, and because of the great expanse of the park, seeing it by air is a great option. There is a golf course adjacent to the airport, and the visitor center is ¾ mile walk away. Unfortunately, there is no public transportation, nor any rental cars available. There are campgrounds and a visitor center within walking distance, and a shuttle service is provided for guests of the nearby Furnace Creek Inn and Ranch Resorts. If you visit Death Valley, it’s also worthwhile to fly over to the Stovepipe Wells airstrip just 15 nm to the northwest. There are a gift shop, restrooms, campground, and lodge just a 1/2 mile walk from the tie down area. Beautiful areas to fly over are the Panamint Valley (look for the sea level sign part-way up the mountain near Badwater Basin, where the lowest point is 282 feet below seal level), the sand dunes near Stovepipe Wells, and the Racetrack Playa, 20 miles west of Stovepipe Wells.
Good to Know
To clear the Spring Mountains directly to the west of the Las Vegas Valley, and to remain clear of the overhead Bravo airspace, it’s recommended to fly west or southwest of Henderson and cross the mountain range at one of the passes such as Columbia or Potosi. Continue west to fly over Shoshone L61 to the Amargosa River, then northbound up through Panamint Valley, which includes the lowest elevation Badwater Basin at nearly 282’ below sea level. Be aware that the park and its airports underlie MOAs, which begin at 200′ or 3000’ AGL, and stay above the recommended 2000′ AGL over a national park. There are no fuel services available at either Furnace Creek nor nearby Stovepipe Wells, so plan alternate fuel stops accordingly, such as Pahrump 74P. The airports are for daytime use only. The runway at Furnace Creek is marginally maintained, so it is very rough and has some foliage growing up through the pavement. There has been recent talk of closing the airports, so be sure to visit soon if it is on your aviation bucket list. Beware of the usual hazards associated with mountain flying, including high density altitude, gusty conditions, wind shear, and mountain obscuration. Please see www.nps.gov/deva/planyourvisit/airports.htm for more information.
Lake Havasu, Arizona KHII
Distance from Henderson: 92 nm
Lake Havasu Airport is 92 nm southeast of Henderson on the beautiful, Colorado River-fed Lake Havasu. Like Bullhead City, Havasu is well-known for its water sports, fishing, and outdoor recreation. The weather tends to be a few degrees warmer than Henderson, and the scenery all around is gorgeous. Please visit www.visitarizona.com/places/cities/lake-havasu-city/ for more details.
Good to Know
Havasu can be a fairly busy class G airport, with plenty of fair-weather, charter, and student training flights operating at any given time. It also underlies the busy Turtle MOA, and military jets and helicopters can often be seen landing and taking off. There are a variety of restaurants available in the surrounding area, including a popular one called Hangar 24 right on the field. The FBO, Desert Skies, providing self- or full-service fuel, is known for their slushy machine and popcorn available in the lobby. They also have a pool and hot tub on property for pilots to use; just ask at the front desk. There is no daytime landing or parking fee for small planes. There are 3 courtesy cars available at no charge with fuel purchase, but consider calling in advance to reserve one. For more details on the airport, please see www.lhcaz.gov/public-works/airport.
101-150 Nautical Miles
Grand Canyon, Arizona KGCN
Distance from KHND: 146 nm
With adequate preparation, this is a must-see area for GA pilots out of Henderson. You could spend a few hours visiting some park highlights, or take a whole day or two to visit each and every corridor and canyon, but any way you choose to fly, it will not disappoint. The Grand Canyon is indeed an attraction not to miss, and there is no better way to take in its beauty than by flying overhead. There are FAA special VFR flight rules (SVFR) surrounding the canyon, so be sure to do the research to fly it properly, and consider sitting down with a CFI beforehand to go over your planned route of flight. The Grand Canyon airport itself is set among a forest of pines not far from the South Rim in Tusayan. Restaurants and lodging are plentiful in Tusayan as well as in the park itself. A park entrance fee will be required to enter the park, or possession of a national parks pass. Please visit www.nps.gov/grca/index.htm for more about visiting the park.
Good to Know
Seasonally, the Grand Canyon airport can be a very busy class D airport, with plenty of helicopter, airplane, and GA tours occurring daily. Be very familiar with altitude restrictions, and monitor and broadcast your location on the appropriate frequency in the SVFR area, or consider picking up VFR flight following for traffic advisories. There is no landing fee at GCN, but be prepared to pay a premium for fuel. In case you must choose just one corridor to transition, Zuni and Dragon are very popular. If you call the FBO ahead of time, you may ask permission to park at the north end of the ramp instead of at transient parking, which is a long walk to the FBO. There is a paid shuttle service that can drive passengers into the park, then a free shuttle within the park to different overlooks. As it’s so close to the canyon, be aware that the weather patterns can shift suddenly and become very windy and turbulent. Density altitude considerations are especially important at KGCN, where the field elevation is 6609’. Check out www.azdot.gov/about/grand-canyon-airport for more information about the airport.
Big Bear City (L35)
Distance from KHND: 135 nm
Big Bear City is a beautiful lake-side mountain town surrounded by the rugged San Bernardino National Forest, and a popular destination for residents from Southern California, Nevada, and Arizona. It boasts a variety of seasonal activities, from snowshoeing and skiing in the winter at two ski resorts, to waterskiing, boating, hiking, and mountain biking in the warmer months. There are many resorts and cabins, and plentiful private rental properties available for lodging, along with various choices for dining. Additional fun activities especially for families include an alpine slide in the summer, and an animal rescue called the Big Bear Alpine Zoo. See www.bigbear.com for more details on activities.
Good to Know
Self-serve Jet A and 100LL are available on the ramp at Big Bear. A restaurant is located in the airport terminal, but please call ahead to verify the hours before visiting. No courtesy cars are available, but there is a shuttle into the village for $5 per person each way, or free transit to the ski slopes. Like any mountainous, high elevation airport, advance flight and performance planning is important to conducting a safe flight. Please be aware that the field elevation at Big Bear is 6752’ MSL; even under standard conditions, airplane performance will be adversely affected by the high density altitude. Since the airport is in a mountainous basin, use care with arrival and departure procedures, which tend to be best made from the northeast or the west. A noise abatement program is in effect, so be sure to follow the procedures for a quiet arrival and departure. There is a lot more information at www.bigbearcityairport.com, including a very helpful animation on VFR arrivals and departures. The mountains can also create strong gusts and wind shear, so try to plan your visit on a calmer day with stable air. Even if instrument rated, it is highly recommended to fly to Big Bear in the daytime before flying in at night to be familiar with both the arrival and departure procedures.
Palm Springs, CA KPSP
Distance from KHND: 145 nm
Palm Springs International Airport is in the popular resort city in southern California, located 145 nm southwest of Henderson in the Coachella Valley. It is a famous retirement and winter snowbird destination, known for its resorts, arts and cultural scene, and outdoor recreational activities such as hiking, biking, golfing, and horseback riding. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway (www.pstramway.com) provides a 10-minute rotating tram car ride up to the San Jacinto Park and Wilderness Area, where there is a snack bar, lounge, and two restaurants (one of which has incredible views of the valley below). If you’re sticking closer to the airport, check out the Palm Springs Air Museum, ranked #14 among the world’s best aviation museums by CNN Travel. In addition to rotating through airplane exhibits, there are flight rides available for purchase in planes such as a PT-Stearman and P-51 Mustang. Please see www.palmspringsairmuseum.org for more details. The FBO, Atlantic Aviation, is top-notch, and is rumored to have the world’s best scones and cookies!
Good to Know
Palm Springs is underlying one of the few remaining TRSAs in the U.S. Terminal Radar Service Areas provide radar separation to IFR and participating VFR aircraft. It is not required, but certainly encouraged to contact TRSA on the appropriate frequency as you would contact approach at a Class C airport, and expect radar vectors until they hand you off to the tower controllers. Expect to approach from the north and use the shorter parallel runway, as larger jets may be using the longer one. On departure, contact clearance delivery for a transponder code and departure frequency before calling for taxi. Look out for gusty afternoon winds and turbulence, especially to the west-northwest through Banning Pass. There are overnight fees, but they may be waived with a fuel purchase. Courtesy cars may also be available.
150-225 Nautical Miles
Marble Canyon, Arizona L41
Distance from KHND: 176 nm
Marble Canyon is another stunning airport, located 176 nm northeast of Henderson within the Grand Canyon SVFR boundaries. The surrounding landscape is marked by the twisting Colorado River, rugged vermillion cliffs, and deep ravines. There is a small parking area on the north end, a restaurant, gift shop and lodge for overnight stays across the road, and the airport is within walking distance of the beautiful Navajo Bridge near Lee’s Ferry. Kayaking and rafting tours may also be available seasonally. For more details on the Marble Canyon Lodge and activities, please see www.marblecanyoncompany.com.
Good to Know
Call ahead if you plan to eat at the restaurant, as their hours may be reduced seasonally. There is a $5 parking fee for single-engine aircraft. Like Grand Canyon Airport, its proximity to the special VFR area takes some familiarization and planning. While most low altitude flights for GA are prohibited within the canyon, flights below 3000’ AGL are allowed when flying into and out of the canyon airports including Marble Canyon. There is one narrow runway; it is fairly smooth, but curves and has an uphill slope to the north, and it is at the bottom of a canyon surrounded by very steep terrain. For a helpful first-hand account of flying into Marble Canyon, please visit www.azpilots.org/news/50039-az-airports/50466-arizona-airport-focus-marble-canyon
Flagstaff, AZ KFLG
Distance from Henderson: 177 nm
The Flagstaff airport is located 177 nm southeast of Henderson, just south of the San Francisco Peaks, the highest mountain range in Arizona, which includes Humphrey’s Peak at 12,633’. This unique area is surrounded by desert, mountains, and Ponderosa pine forests. Flagstaff’s towered, class D airport can be busy, used by general and corporate aviation, and seasonal commercial flights. Home to Northern Arizona University, there are numerous restaurants, lodging, and outdoor activities in the beautiful mountain city of 75,000. Popular activities include biking, hiking, skiing at Snowbowl, and sightseeing at the Walnut Canyon National Monument with its Native American cliff dwellings. Nearby Mormon Lake and Lake Mary are used for fishing and water sports. The enormous Meteor Crater, 32 nm to the east, is 3900’ wide and 560’ deep. If you love the outdoors, Flagstaff is a great destination to visit. There may be courtesy cars available at the FBO, and car rental companies and ride sharing services are plentiful in the area. Say hello to the FBO cat while you’re there! Visit www.flagstaffarizona.org for more information.
Good to Know
The field elevation at Flagstaff is 7014’, so be very familiar with the high density altitude performance capabilities of your aircraft, and consider a calm winter, spring or fall visit rather than the hot summer. There is a top-notch FBO on the field with all kinds of services provided, including overnight parking, maintenance services, and 24-hour full-service fueling. For noise abatement, avoid overflying the congested areas. As with all mountain-flying locations, beware of gusty winds, wind shear, and mountain obscuration. More details can be found at www.flagstaff.az.gov/1541/Flagstaff-Airport.
Sedona, Arizona KSEZ
Distance from KHND: 177 nm
Sedona is another must-see for pilots in the southwest, 177 nm southeast of Henderson. The unique desert landscape is filled with stunning red rocks, steep cliffs, and mesas; the 5100’ runway itself is built upon a mesa at 4831’ elevation. Sedona is known for its temperate climate, festive arts community, and outdoor activities like hiking and biking. There are numerous lodging options, from small budget lodges to five-star upscale resorts. There is a delicious restaurant, The Mesa Grill, right next door to the terminal with a dog-friendly outdoor patio and fire pit overlooking the runway. The Sky Ranch Lodge, just a short stroll from the terminal, has rooms and cottages available for overnight stays. There are no courtesy vehicles, however there are rental cars available by the day or for $10/hour. Www.visitsedona.com has more information.
Good to Know
Sedona is an uncontrolled field, but can be very busy with helicopter, GA, and corporate aviation. Its unique location on top of a mesa can create challenging arrivals and departures, so please read the chart supplement carefully for preferred runway use, noise abatement, and wind patterns. Have an assistant ready to take pictures and videos during approach and departure, as it is incredibly scenic! Please plan carefully under high density altitude and gusty conditions, and note that touch and goes are not authorized. Be prepared to be amazed by this breath-taking destination! Please see www.sedonaairport.org for more airport details.
Catalina Island, Avalon, CA KAVX
Distance from KHND: 224 nm
Catalina Island, 224 nm southwest of Henderson, is one of the eight Channel Islands off the coast of southern California. It is known for its ocean diving, beaches, zip-lining, wildlife, camping, jeep tours, and a resort town called Two Harbors. The town includes a movie theater, dining, and a museum. Transportation to Catalina is normally by ferry, but in a plane, it’s a quick 20 nm hop over from the coast. Interestingly, most of the island was purchased by entrepreneur William Wrigley Jr. of chewing gum fame, and he would bring his Chicago Cub baseball team to Catalina each year for spring training. He also built the airport known as Airport in the Sky. More details can be found at www.lovecatalinaisland.com
Good to Know
The airport is at 1602’ above the Pacific Ocean, about 10 miles from Avalon. It is paved and 3250’ long, maintained by the Catalina Island Conservancy, which charges a landing fee to use the facility, and provides overnight tie-downs. To make the trip without a floatplane, it’s necessary to select a high enough altitude to glide back to the coast, or to the island, safely in case of an engine failure. Make sure to study the recommended airport arrival and departure procedures, and make sure you are proficient with short field takeoffs and landings. Please see this helpful article on flying into Catalina at www.aopa.org/news-and-media/all-news/2020/march/pilot/destination-catalina-island
The AOPA Safety Foundation has also published a video on flying into Catalina at www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKxe3C5-15A
These are just some of the many exciting locations easily accessible by small plane from Henderson. There are many more hidden gems waiting to be discovered by pilots. Desert Flying Club has many planes available for rental which are perfect for exploring our area, and knowledgeable instructors ready to help if you need assistance planning your next adventure. Please make sure to share your photos, videos and thoughts with us on these airports or others you visit!