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Take your Bonanza to Bonanza

Do pilots need yet another reason to fly? Probably not, but here’s one anyway. How about flying to your airplane’s namesake destination? Piper Saratoga pilots could fly to Saratoga, New York; Cessna Corvalis TTx owners might land at Corvallis, Oregon; and Beechcraft Bonanza owners can choose to visit Bonanza in Oregon, Utah, or Colorado.

Photo by Chris Rose.

Of the historic big three general aviation manufacturers, only Piper has numerous aircraft models that correspond to American place names. That’s because many Piper aircraft names were taken from Native American tribes—Apache, Comanche, Cherokee, Pawnee, Navajo, Seneca, Seminole—and numerous American towns were also named for those tribes. A few Piper aircraft were named for geographic regions or places, such as the Malibu and Saratoga.

Many of Cessna’s product names are combinations of “air” and “sky” with other words to create names such as Skywagon, Skylane, Skycatcher, Airmaster, and Stationair. A few were named for birds, such as the Cardinal and Skylark. Others are named for their intended duty, such as Commuter, Patroller, Aerobat, and Caravan.

Beechcraft seemed to be enamored of royalty, with names such as King Air, Queen Air, Baron, Duke, Duchess, and Musketeer. During World War II, the company did build the AT–10 Wichita, a trainer named after Wichita, Kansas, the location of the Beechcraft factory.

Owners of the most popular kitplanes are out of luck, unless someone names their town RV–7. Look up your own airplane’s name and see if there’s a built-in excuse to make a trip.

“Honey, I gotta take our ‘Super Mobeetie’ home to Texas.”

Beechcraft Bonanza—Bonanza, Colorado

Bonanza is not what it once was, a booming silver mining town in the Rocky Mountains. Back in the 1880s, Bonanza had more than 1,000 miners digging during the day and enjoying 36 saloons and seven dance halls at night. Today, it’s a ghost town and worth the drive to wander among the deteriorating historic buildings beneath the majestic mountains. Pilots can access Bonanza by car after landing at Salida/Harriett Alexander Field in Salida, 40 miles north of Bonanza and 100 miles southwest of Denver. For a sneak peek, view photos of Bonanza on the Uncover Colorado travel guide website.

After exploring Bonanza, you could continue south to hike—or sandboard or sled—at the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, which has the tallest sand dunes in North America, up to 750 feet high. Park trails also provide chances for hiking in the Sangre de Cristo mountains, through evergreen forests up to alpine meadows and lakes. If you prefer snow to sand, travel north to Colorado’s premier ski resorts in Aspen, Breckenridge, or Vail.

Piper Seneca—Seneca Falls, New York

Photo by Chris Rose.Autumn might be the best season for Piper Seneca pilots to visit Seneca Falls in the Finger Lakes region of New York. That’s peak time for leaf peeping, for the grape harvest, and for tasting the region’s wines. In summer, people flock to the lakes for boating, sailing, seaplane flying, hiking, and camping. Take the kids to Seneca Falls to learn about the women's rights movement. The town hosted the 1848 Seneca Falls Women's Rights Convention, the first nationwide gathering of leaders in the struggle for women’s rights, held in the Wesleyan Chapel. Today, the Women’s Rights National Historical Park museum is housed in a building next to the chapel, which is also open to visit.

Classic film fans will want to visit the It's a Wonderful Life Museum, dedicated to the 1946 film. Director Frank Capra visited Seneca Falls and may have drawn inspiration from it for the movie’s fictional town of “Bedford Falls.”

Pilots should make the 50-mile scenic drive along Seneca Lake to Hammondsport, home of aviation pioneer Glenn Curtiss, and site of the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum. It’s well worth a visit.

Fly into Finger Lakes Regional Airport, 2 miles southeast of Seneca Falls and west of Cayuga Lake. If you plan to drive farther afield than Seneca Falls, contact the Enterprise Car Rental office in Geneva and they’ll deliver a car to the airport. Save room in your aircraft for bottles of crisp, white New York wines, especially Rieslings.

Photo by Mike Fizer.

Cessna (Columbia) Corvalis TTx—Corvallis, Oregon

The only Cessna aircraft with a matching place name is the Corvalis TTx, originally built by Columbia Aircraft. The name was taken from the town of Corvallis, Oregon (although Columbia left off one “L”), where the aircraft were built before relocating the factory to Kansas in 2009. Pre-2009 Corvalis pilots can take their airplanes back to their birthplace by landing at Corvallis Municipal Airport, 5 miles south of town.

Corvallis lies in the Willamette Valley, along the Willamette River and surrounded by mountains. It’s a great spot for hiking, biking, birdwatching, river sports, and some of the best wines in America. Willamette Valley wineries feature tasting rooms where you can sample the local wines and food while overlooking the vines and the picturesque valley.

Drive or fly 50 miles north to view the Spruce Goose, the largest flying boat ever built. The aircraft built by Howard Hughes, and many more historic aircraft and spacecraft, are displayed at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, located next to McMinnville Municipal Airport.

Piper Cheyenne—Cheyenne, Wyoming

Photo by Chris Rose.Pull on your cowboy boots for a flight to Cheyenne in July. That’s when the town in the southeastern part of the state hosts Cheyenne Frontier Days, a 10-day festival of rodeo competitions and Western entertainment. The festival includes all the attractions of a county fair—a carnival midway, amusement rides, chuckwagon cooking competitions, parades, pancake breakfasts, Western art shows, country-western concerts, Native American exhibits, and the primary reason for the festival—rodeo. Check the schedule to select from the various rodeo events, such as steer roping, bronc and bull riding, and barrel races. Be sure to stroll through the Old Frontier Town and Indian Village, and visit the Old West Museum, which is open year-round.

For pilots, be there on the Wednesday of the festival: That’s the day the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds always perform at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne. The next Cheyenne Frontier Days will be July 23 to August 1. There are plenty of ranches around Cheyenne where you can go horseback riding, feed a bison herd, or sit around a campfire singing cowboy songs. Check the city’s website for recommendations. To join the fun, land at Cheyenne Regional Airport/Jerry Olson Field, 1 mile north of downtown Cheyenne and 98 miles north of Denver, Colorado. Legend AeroServe is the FBO and offers fuel and full-service amenities. Several rental car companies have counters at the airport, or they’ll deliver.

Photo by Mike Fizer.

Piper Malibu—Malibu, California

You just might be able to fit your surfboard into a Piper Malibu for a trip to Malibu. The oceanfront town, 30 miles west of Los Angeles, is known for its sunny climate, 21 miles of beach, and some of the world’s best surfing. Located so close to Hollywood, Malibu beaches have been the filming locations for many movies, including such 1960s classics as Gidget, Beach Blanket Bingo, and Planet of the Apes. It’s also home to many Hollywood celebrities.

Surfers will want to paddle out at Malibu Lagoon State Beach, also known as Surfrider Beach, a premier surfing beach that was dedicated as the first World Surfing Reserve. Or, just watch from Malibu Pier and stroll the beach up to the historic Adamson House, a 1929 Mediterranean Revival mansion that is now a museum (check viewing availability during the COVID-19 pandemic).

To avoid the crowded and complex Los Angeles airspace, navigate to Camarillo Airport for your Malibu beach trip. Camarillo is a GA and executive airport in Ventura County, about 20 miles west of Malibu. The airport has one 6,000-foot runway and a separate, very small runway for use by ultralights. Check the AOPA Airports and Destinations Directory for information about the multiple FBOs at the airport and fuel prices.

The airport is home to the Commemorative Air Force's Southern California museum, which exhibits aircraft such as a Curtiss C–46, a Grumman F6F Hellcat, and a Supermarine Spitfire. Rides on the only flying Marine Mitchell B–25 and other historic aircraft are also available (check viewing availability during the COVID-19 pandemic).

Surfing and flying, not a bad vacation.

Dennis K. Johnson

Dennis K. Johnson is an aviation writer and pilot living in New York City.
Topics: Travel, U.S. Travel

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