Airport comments by @hamish

Comments 1 to 11 of 11

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A Nice GA-Friendly Airport

A nice GA-friendly airport with a steady stream of visiting and local traffic, and competent tower controllers and a reasonable set of IFR approaches for those endless summer stretches when the coastal stratus covers everything within 25 miles of the coast. Lots of training flights in the pattern and around the area due to the Japan Airlines ab initio training facility there and the other local FBO's. The airport restaurant "Jonesy's" is fairly famous, but I'm not sure why -- it's really just a rather average steak house. But hey, it's a steak house right next to the ramp, so it's a lot better than nothing.

Transient parking on the main ramp is usually easy for small GA aircraft, but when the nearby Sears Point raceway is hosting a big event, or there's something else in the area (a wine fly-in :-)), parking can be very difficult. Call ahead and ask...

One thing to remember here is that although it's "Napa" airport, it's actually quite some distance from the main vineyards and wineries you think of when you hear "Napa Valley" -- and some wineries are probably quite a long drive away in a rental car through really heavy traffic; if your winery is actually in Sonoma County, you're probably better off with Healdsburg airport. But this is still the main Napa Valley airport, and it's a good place to start...

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Not A Bad Alternative To Oakland

I'm based here and at Oakland (KOAK, just up the freeway), and Hayward's not a bad alternative to Oakland for GA visits. But note that it's not a 24 hour operation like Oakland; public transport (e.g. BART) is not nearly as easy to get to from here; transient parking has been problematic lately; and there are fewer IFR options, even with the new RNAV LPV approach.

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Beware The Crosswinds!

I did a large part of my tailwheel training here, for good reason: this field has some notorious crosswinds, often enough varying 180 degrees sharply from one part of the runway to the next. Good for practice and for keeping current, but not so much fun when you're not expecting it....

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Plagued By Weather...

Arcata airport is plagued year-round by coastal stratus, even sometimes going below ILS minimums for relatively long stretches. But the airport cafe -- Silver Lining, in the main terminal building -- is pretty good for an airport cafe (their fish and chips worked for me, and I'm British), and the Arcata / Eureka area is a lovely place to stay (there's a good selection of Bed and Breakfast places in Arcata).

Note that smaller GA planes might find Eureka (Murray Field) just down the coast cheaper and more convenient if the weather's VFR or above Eureka's approach minimums, but Arcata's a good all-round choice in any case.

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A Good Stopover for SF / LA Flights

A nice towered airport that's an almost perfect fuel / food / exercise break for GA flights between the San Francisco Bay Area and the LA area. You can get pretty good American Diner fare at the airport cafe, the Spirit Of San Luis (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), and there are scheduled commuter airline connections from here to the usual LA, SF, and Central Valley destinations. The area itself is growing rapdily and getting something of a name as a new wine country destination.

Note that like most of coastal California, the coastal stratus can come in quickly in the evenings, so if you're flying VFR, keep a good eye out for the weather.

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A Great GA Alternative To KLAX or KVNY

A great GA alternative to LAX or Van Nuys, convenient to the Westside, Santa Monica / Venice, Pacific Pallisades, Malibu, and (at a stretch) Downtown.

If you arrive IFR, note that the VOR / GPS approach (the only approach) is sometimes nicknamed the "Santa Monica Slam" with good reason: SoCal Approach will often vector you inside DARTS (the IAF) at 6,000' to keep you above opposing traffic going into Van Nuys, meaning you are some 4,000' above the minimum altitude for that segment with only a few miles to lose it at the inevitable "best forward speed" with a bunch of business jets in trail...

Note that transient parking here is minimal, and sometimes non-existent: if you're planning an overnight stay, best book it with one of the FBO's (I used Supermarine, who were friendly and competent, even though I was in a lowly 172 surrounded by the Citations and Hawkers to the stars, etc.).

Note also that with a few exceptions there are no defined runway exit points here -- you get off the runway wherever you can on the continuous apron (try not to hit a runway light...), and taxi past the continuous hold short line as fast as you can (otherwise tower will get rather unpleasant).

Oh, and this is a busy airport, with a very diverse mixture of aircraft and pilots. (there's a lot of training being done here), and some stringent noise abatement procedures.

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Home Of The Castle Air Museum

Home of the excellent Castle Air Museum (, and previously Catsle AFB (so it has the sort of runway you can almost land a 172 *across*...). Castle's got a good ILS approach and recently got a part-time tower, so it's also becoming something of a Central Valley training destination -- watch out for the students in the (huge) pattern!

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A Surprisingly Large and Busy Towered Airport...

A surprisingly large and busy towered airport, Camarillo's location (basically Oxnard) is good for Outer LA destinations like Simi Valley, and it's an interesting destination in its own right, with the SoCal Commemorative Air Force hangars and museum on-field.

The airport cafe -- Waypoints -- is kinda famous for its tri-tip (look it up -- I didn't know what it was either) Wednesdays, and ain't bad for other standard fare either. The transient parking area is right in front of the cafe, which is only open until 6pm, unfortunately.

I've dealt with both Channel Islands Aviation and Skyblue Air at Camarillo, and have been pleased by both businesses. There's currently (7/07) relatively cheap fuel available at the self-serve pumps, but I don't know how long that will last...

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Not An Easy Airport To Get In To...

Ruth's a nice little airport in the middle of nowhere. There's really nothing next to or at the airport itself -- no services, no stores or shops, just a few huts and sheds and a (mostly-closed) ranch off to the side. And in summer it gets HOT, so bring a lot of water...

But it's a good place for a BBQ or a picnic on the tables next to the "ramp", and then for a long hike in the hills or along the river (but it's rugged and sparsely-inhabited country around here).

The airport itself quite a challenge to get into and back out of -- it's at the bottom of a long(ish) narrow valley, and the runway is out of sight for a significant segment of final approaches from either end. There is no easy way to do a normal pattern (you have to keep high and pretty much over the runway itself on downwind), and the downdrafts from the surrounding ridges can be fierce. The turns to base and final if you're landing to the northwest are done within a few hundred metres -- and at a lower altitude -- than the surrounding ridges. And then you dogleg up over the Mad River and finally see the runway.... The runway itself is long and wide enough, and it's a nice location.

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Great Fly-in Destination

Sheter Cove's a great fly-in destination, either for lunch or for the weekend. The airport is close to the shoreline, right in the middle of the village (it's part of the local golf course...), and there are beaches, walking trails, picnic tables, cheap camping, reasonable food, and OK hotels within easy walking distance. The location is beautiful -- part of the rugged Lost Coast, it's surrounded by mountains and cliffs on one side, the Pacific on the other -- and while it's a long, arduous, and unpleasant drive from almost anywhere else in California, it's an easy flight up the coast from the San Francisco Bay Area.

But watch out for the fog, which can close in almost without notice and make VFR flying impossible for hours if not days at a time (and there's no IFR approaches here...), and be aware that there are no aviation services (fuel, repairs, etc.) here at all.

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General Aviation at Oakland

Oakland's a good choice for GA visitors to the San Francisco Bay Area -- it's actually almost as close to downtown San Francisco as KSFO but it's usually quite a bit cheaper, it has a good selection of IFR approaches and a well-controlled airspace, it has a very large GA base with a 24 hour FBO (Kaiser), and it's close to BART and other transport options. I've been based here for years...