Few places offer such a varied and exciting range of landscapes as California, and that’s why the Golden State is a premier destination for flying. A pilot can take off in a small plane at Half Moon Bay on the Pacific Coast, cross San Francisco Bay, transcend the Central Valley, fly over Yosemite National Park, then land at the Lee Vining airstrip in the desert.
In just about 90 minutes in the air, that flight will open the pilot’s eyes to the wonder of stunning natural landscapes, unique topographies, a variety of vegetation, skyline, mountains, valleys, forests, wildlife, and a vast visual splendor best experienced in person.
Though picking just a few of our favorites is challenging, the following sections outline California’s five best flight destinations.
Agua Caliente Airport
A lesser-known airstrip yet visually stunning and close to several attractions, the Agua Caliente Airport is 18 nautical miles south of Borrego Valley Airport, in the middle of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. The airstrip is well-maintained, and its remote location creates a sense of peace and calm, much appreciated by pilots looking to escape the hustle and bustle of urban California city life. The nearby Agua Caliente’s hot springs are worth the $3 admission for a relaxing dip.
Expert tip: The airport’s proximity to the mountains can make for varied wind and visibility conditions, so flight instructors at Mach 1 recommend pilots use runway 29 for landing and 11 for departure.
Oceano County Airport
Located a stone’s throw from the Pacific Ocean, the Oceano County Airport is an excellent staging site for flights over Santa Barbara, Santa Ynez, and the Danish village of Solvang. The area is famous for its vineyards, and the approach to the landing strip and departures from it present no particular difficulties. The nearby dunes provide endless seaside off-roading adventure, as Oceano Dunes is the only California State Park where visitors may drive vehicles on the beach. Beach buggies are available for rent, and there are several nearby restaurants for food and beverage. Visitors also enjoy hiking trails, shops, and overnight accommodations.
Expert tip: Due to restricted airspace around Vandenburg Air Force Base, the coast directly south of Oceano is a no-fly zone. Morro Bay VOR will help you with your navigation if you require assistance.
Lee Vining Airport
Located on the shore of Mono Lake, the Lee Vining Airport provides pilots and their passengers access to some of California’s most stunning nature sites. Mono Lake is a unique natural phenomenon, a saline soda lake with high salt concentration levels. Nearby Yosemite National Park, El Capitan, Half Dome, and the Tioga Pass all provide stunning views from the air, arguably one of the best aeronautical experiences in North America.
Expert tip: Instructors at Mach 1 recommend pilots approach Lee Vining through the Yosemite Valley and Tioga Pass. However, as Tioga Pass is almost 10,000 feet high, pilots must pay careful attention to the route, weather, and visibility conditions.
Trinity Center Airport
Located about 38 miles northwest of Redding, Trinity Center Airport is surrounded by picturesque mountains. Positioned near the north shore of Trinity Lake, this truly remote airfield allows pilots and their passengers to reach the natural beauty of Mount Shasta in a fraction of the time it takes most people to arrive at the mountain by car. Trinity Center Airport also provides pilots with an excellent introduction to flying in the mountains.
Expert tip: There are several ways to approach Trinity Center Airport, but Mach 1 instructors prefer to follow the Central Valley right up to its most northerly point, with Mount Shasta looming ever larger on the horizon.
Catalina Airfield (Airport in the Sky)
Catalina Island is a popular destination for many reasons. For one, it is the only island off the California coast where private planes are allowed to land. The approach over the sea is exhilarating, and the landing strip is unique and well-maintained. The island itself has a vast array of native flora and fauna, plus a large bison herd that was brought to the island in 1924.
Expert tip: While a shuttle provides transportation from the airfield to the town of Avalon, visiting pilots don’t have to leave the airport just to get a bite to eat! The Airport in The Sky’s DC-3 restaurant provides daily meals.
See it All with Mach 1 Aviation
The best flight school in California, Mach 1 Aviation has earned the esteemed title of a Platinum Cirrus Partner, the only flight school in Los Angeles to have earned that title and one of the country’s only schools of that caliber. People interested in experiencing the wonders of flight have reason to put their trust in Mach 1, as the Los Angeles flight school is known throughout the region for offering classes that are more comprehensive, involved, and hands-on than any other regional flight school.
Mach 1 is dedicated to producing knowledgeable pilots skilled in the theory and application of flying. Unlike many flight schools that tend to rush the process, Mach 1 Aviation is passionate about creating proficient pilots who put safety above all else and can handle any aeronautical event, no matter how complicated. For a quality flight instruction experience in top-grade, luxury aircraft, call Mach 1 today at (818) 390-9960, email our front desk at firstname.lastname@example.org, or fill out our convenient contact form.