The Old Grand Canyon Airport

I finally find it from the ground.

Two years ago, when I was in training to fly helicopter tours at the Grand Canyon, I made daily trips to the Grand Canyon’s old airport out by Red Butte. I don’t know much about the old airport except how to find it from the air. I don’t think its two runways were ever paved.

Oh, yes. It has the remains of a big old hangar on the west side of where the runways were.

I love exploring ruins and remnants of the past. I remembered the hangar last week when Mike, Jack, and I were doing some back-roading in that area. I think we passed near the end of the main runway while driving out toward the Coconino Rim.

Yesterday, while back-roading with Jack southwest side of Grand Canyon National Park, I remembered the old airport again. And since I had to drive right past that area to get back to Howard Mesa, I figured I’d try again to find it.

Old Grand Canyon AirportI won’t go into details about the roads I tried and the wrong turns I took. Suffice it to say that I finally homed in on it. After driving down a two-track road that cut diagonally across the main runway, I parked my Jeep right in front of the gaping hangar door.

It’s a neat old building with a dirt floor and not much else. The shelves are stripped bare and rooms that could have been living quarters show signs of vandalism, including a burned door. There was a picnic table just inside the main door, offering a shady place to have lunch, surrounded by the ghosts of aviation past.

One room in the back corner had fairly new saddle racks attached to the walls; that same room had a Private Property/No Trespassing sign on it from the outside. (Oops!) I guess someone had used it not long ago to store horse tack. There were other buildings nearby that appeared to be in better condition; all of them had the same Private Property signs on them so Jack and I stayed clear. Still, it didn’t appear as if anyone was living there. Since the old airport is in the Kaibab National Forest, I find it hard to believe that anyone would live there. But who knows? The owners of the buildings could have been grandfathered in when the government bought the land.

The Hangar Door at Old Grand Canyon AirportOne thing is for sure: visiting the old airport and looking up at the faded paint over the door spelling out “Grand Canyon Airlines” has given me a real thirst for knowledge about the place. When I’m finished with my road trip book project and trip to Canada (for work), I might start doing a little research.

It would be great to talk to someone who had actually flown there.

Before leaving, I snagged the coordinates with my GPS. Next time I want to find it, I won’t have to wander around until I stumble into it.

[composed on top of a mesa in the middle of nowhere with ecto]

17 thoughts on “The Old Grand Canyon Airport

  1. Hi, I’ve been trying to find this abandoned airport to photograph it. Can you provide any further information on how to reach it by road? Or perhaps the GPS coordinates you reffered to?

    Thanks!

    Tim

  2. Hi, I googled old grand canyon airport because it was mentioned in an article about Amelia Earharts mechanic. The article is in the Mar. 07 issue of Aircraft Maintenance Technology. There are a few cool picures in the article.

    PJ

  3. Thanks for mentioning this. I looked up the article to check it out. Interesting. The airport is a lonely place now, a forgotten remnant of the past. I think the history of aviation in the area must be very interesting.

  4. visited the old airport today, 04/01/07. still just as the story goes. spectacular. i’m an air grand canyon pilot, and it took my breath away. so very much history there. two brothers have bought the airport and are pursuing historic renovations. legal issues, and leases are thick, so i’m told. hoping for the best.

  5. I’d be very interested in meeting with the new owners about the place. I’d very much like to see it renovated. But with it being on National Forest land, I’m sure there are all kinds of restrictions.

  6. hi, im a america west capt. and i too love to explor the past, esprcially old apts. if you would be willing to share the gps coord. i would be very thankful. i enjoyed your site. paul.

  7. Hello all. Long story short…I look out my back arcadia door each morning and see Red Butte. (Yesiree, I am a happy woman!) The turnoff to the airport is just up the road from me. Ive taken friends/guests (I have a B&B) out there many times. It is very easy to find if you know where to turn right off Hwy 64 (the main road to the South Rim). Since I know where to go I havent needed the mile marker # but I am more than willing to take a little jaunt up the road to get the number if anybody would like that info.

    Please, feel free to contact me if I can help.

  8. I just got back from a trip to the grand canyon. On the way up. I took the turn towards Red Butte because I saw a sign that said Curly Wallace 4 miles(or 3 miles can’t remember). I was curious what was out there. When I got to the Curley Wallace sign, I saw another sign that said Hwy 64 5 miles. The road splits there. I took the road to the left towards hwy 64. As you drive on that road you can see the old airport off in the distance to the north. I continued on that road and eventually came to another intersection. The road to the left leads back out to the highway. The road to the right(east) leads to the old Grand Canyon airport. I just stumbled on this while poking around out there. This is a really cool site. Well worth the visit and pretty easy to find. I don’t know the name of any of the roads but it is just to the north of Red Butte. Beautiful country this time of year. Nice and green.

  9. Hello! I was searching around the web for anything that has to do with the Grand Canyon and aviation and I found this post! I do not know if you are still interested in talking with people that flew out of the old airport, but my great uncles Henry, Palen and Alfred actually owned the Grand Canyon Airlines for quite some time. Uncle Henry is the only suriving brother, but my father also worked for them in the 1960s. I am doing research on Aviation in Arizona after the 1956 collision and have some recordings from uncle Henry if you are interested.

    • I would absolutely LOVE to meet with your Uncle Henry to talk to him about his experience there and see any photos he might have. Will be in touch via e-mail shortly.

  10. I’m a hang glider pilot in Arizona.

    Yesterday (May 16, 2010) a group of four hang gliders, including myself, took off from Mingus Mountain, just above Jerome, Arizona. We enjoyed riding the great, rising thermal air currents to 17,000 feet as we flew 80 miles north and landed at the old, Grand Canyon Airport! I bet we were the first “fixed wing” aircraft to land there in many, many years! We didn’t know that this place was the old airport; it just looked like a nice big, open landing zone for us. What a stroke of luck! The old hangar is still there. Here are the GPS coordinates:

    N 35 51.182 W 112 05.396

    I was a helicopter tour pilot, at the Grand Canyon, in the early 1980’s. It was a real treat for me, to “drop in” on such a historic location!

    • Len: What an incredible flight. Didn’t think you could go so far in a hang glider. Do you carry oxygen for high altitudes?

      Ever take off from Yarnell?

  11. I used to fly with an O2 bottle but it’s just one more thing to hassle with.Part of the appeal of hang gliding is the simplicity. I’ll just put up with the headache after some time spent at altitude! Yes, Yarnell is a favorite launch site, when the wind blows from the southwest (upslope). My personal best HG distance flight is 189 miles; the record is 432 miles! It’s great fun that takes you to remote places where few people venture.

What do you think?