CalPilot’s Redland Chapter Fly In Supports Stovepipe Wells Airport
There are two airports operated by the National Park service (NPS) within Death Valley National Park. These include Furnace Creek (L06) and Stovepipe Wells (L09). These provide great access to the park to the general aviation flying community. Death Valley National Park is a long way from anything by car!
The most known of the two is Furnace Creek Airport (L06). It provides access to The Oasis in Death Valley (Formerly Furnace Creek Inn). This resort includes the Inn at Death Valley (a 4-star hotel), restaurants, golf course and the Ranch at Death Valley, a more budget friendly hotel. The other airport, Stovepipe Wells (L09) is about 25 miles north west of L06 and is lesser known. There are no services or aircraft fuel available at either airport. Runway conditions can be dicey at both airports as the asphalt takes a beating from the extreme summer heat.
In mid-December last year, CalPilots learned from the Recreational Aviation Foundation (RAF) that the National Park Service (NPS) is considering closing the Stovepipe Wells airport in the Death Valley National Park. Calpilots learned the NPS was soliciting public comment from November 20 thru December 23, 2020 regarding the future use of the park’s Stovepipe Wells Village. One of the park’s proposals is to change the Stovepipe Wells airstrip into a dedicated night sky viewing area. The NPS make further claims citing Stovepipe Wells airstrip is hardly used by visitors and the area could be better utilized by those wishing to enjoy dark sky astronomy afforded by Death Valley. As the airport is closed to night operations, it is unclear to how the airports existence impedes night sky viewing. Perhaps NPS simply is trying to avoid the maintenance expenses associated with runway repaving. If this proposal is approved the airstrip is in danger of being closing entirely to aircraft.
Between the RAF, Calpilots and some its member chapters including the Redlands Airport Association (RAA) an effort was made to gather more than 400 comments from the pilot community by the December 23rd deadline. According to the RAF, if the Park Service did not receive at least 400 comments from the pilot community regarding Stovepipe Wells, they will ignore the pilot’s input. There has not been any information about next steps from the NPS on the fate of L09 since the comment period deadline has passed.
One of our RAA members, Jim Pickens, was a former tenant of Fullerton Airport (KFUL). He has friends in the Fullerton 99’s and they contacted him to let him know about their plans for the flyout to Stovepipe Wells on January 30th. The stated purpose of this fly-out is to show support for L09 by demonstrating the aviation community’s interest in Stovepipe Wells Airport in addition to having a good time. The Fullerton 99’s also contacted others in the Southern California basin too. As the event was well attended by pilots from Fullerton, Redlands Riverside and Corona.
Saturday January 30th was a perfect day for a fly-out to Death Valley. It had just finished raining for three days in Southern California. The air was crystal clear, and visibility was unlimited. There was snow all over the mountains. The atmosphere cooperated too, as there were no surface winds or serious winds aloft. It was a beautiful day to fly. Death Valley is best described as magnificent desolation. Except for the summer months, it is worth a visit.