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Destinations: Only a GA pilot knows the feelingDestinations: Only a GA pilot knows the feeling

Great destination airports according to our members

Airports are portals to new adventures, glimpses of new places, gateways to new attractions. They get us to family, jobs, and fun. And pilots know how important an airport is, so we informally polled our members and asked what great getaway airports are their favorites.
Pilot Briefing March 2020
Illustration by Barry Downard

Obviously, there are thousands of options, but we narrowed it down to several. And then we researched the why—why this airport, why we should go, and why you should too. We took the other suggestions and offer them to you in a quick regional guide. We know you have more ideas; send them to [email protected] with the subject line “Destination airports.” Or—better yet—rate your favorite airports on AOPA’s Airport Directory Online (aopa.org/destinations).

Email [email protected]

Pilot Briefing March 2020
East

Katama Airpark (1B2), Edgartown, Massachusetts

For beach lovers, Katama in the summertime is heaven. Land on this beautiful grass strip and walk to the ocean. There’s an acclaimed restaurant serving lobster rolls, brioche French toast, and ice cream; the longest turf runway is more than 3,000 feet; and flying around the island of Martha’s Vineyard is spectacular.

“Katama (1B2) is a beautiful airport on Martha’s Vineyard with multiple turf runways. It hosts a restaurant on the field (the Right Fork Diner) and is a short walk to the beach. It has a rustic feel with gorgeous ocean views on arrival and departure. Our family loves packing up the Cherokee Six and heading to Katama for a day at the beach.”—Ed Gormley, Brookline, New HampshireAlso worth it:

  • Portsmouth International at Pease Airport (PSM), Portsmouth, New Hampshire
  • Peter O. Knight Airport (TPF), Tampa, Florida
  • Martha’s Vineyard Airport (MVY), Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts
  • Greenville Downtown Airport (GMU), Greenville, South Carolina
  • George T. Lewis Airport (CDK), Cedar Key, Florida
  • Fernandina Beach Municipal Airport (FHB), Fernandina Beach, Florida
Pilot Briefing March 2020
Central

Mackinac Island Airport (MCD), Mackinac Island, Michigan

There are no cars on Mackinac Island, so getting here is an adventure and one perfectly suited to a general aviation aircraft. After landing on the waterfront 3,500-foot runway, you can walk (or take a horse-drawn carriage) to this magical island town on the Great Lakes.

“This is a very historic and popular island where no cars are allowed—just horse and carriage and bikes—but they have an airport! They send a horse carriage to the airport to pick you up. I have landed there in the summer for trips three times (including proposing to my wife 11 years ago). The Grand Hotel has hosted U.S. presidents. Also, the runway spans the width of the island, so approach and departure are very scenic with water on either side. The flight always includes a great view of the Mackinac Bridge (the longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere). Such a cool spot!”—Stockton Schultz, Niles, MichiganRunners-up:

  • Major Gilbert Field (4R5),Madeline Island, Wisconsin
  • Schaumburg Regional Airport (06C), Chicago/Schaumburg, Illinois
  • Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport (MKC), Kansas City, Missouri
  • Telluride Regional Airport (TEX), Telluride, Colorado
  • Santa Fe Municipal Airport (SAF), Santa Fe, New Mexico
  • Jackson Hole Airport (JAC), Jackson, Wyoming
Pilot Briefing March 2020West

Santa Barbara Municipal Airport (SBA), Santa Barbara, California

This little big airport is in the coastal town of Santa Barbara, and the Spanish mission style is remarkable in the small terminal. The beach, the mountains, wine country, and spectacular views are accessible from this three-runway airport situated on the Pacific Ocean. Be aware, though, AOPA members have warned us about steep fees at the airport. Report your experience about the FBOs and the airport in AOPA’s Airport Directory online.

"There's a reason Santa Barbara is known as the American Riviera. The airport is sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and the mountains. On takeoff you get a free tour of the Central Coast. It doesn't get any prettier than that!”—Richie Diesterheft, Goleta, CaliforniaMore to see:

  • Lake Tahoe Airport (TVL), South Lake Tahoe, California
  • Catalina Airport (AVX), Santa Catalina Island, California (see p. 68)
  • Boeing Field/King County International Airport (BFI), Seattle, Washington
  • Fresno Yosemite International Airport (FAT), Fresno, California
  • John Wayne Airport (SNA), Orange County, California
  • North Las Vegas Airport (VGT), Las Vegas, Nevada
Julie Walker

Julie Summers Walker

AOPA Senior Features Editor
AOPA Senior Features Editor Julie Summers Walker joined AOPA in 1998. She is a student pilot still working toward her solo.

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