In my 17-plus years of writing aviation articles, rarely has one generated as much correspondence as Trip Report – Death Valley Offers a Unique Getaway which appeared in the January 2020 issue of King Air magazine (written during the summer of 2019). I received numerous emails and phone calls about the article, universally complimentary of its style, photos, information and general content. To say I am flattered would be an understatement.
Many of those contacting me were planning future visits to Death Valley National Park (DVNP) themselves and were looking for additional details and suggestions about the area (in general) and Furnace Creek Airport (in particular). Seems that opinions about the airport’s current condition were mixed across “internet-land” and even within several “reliable” sources. As mentioned in the article, my flights to both Furnace Creek (L06) and Stovepipe Wells (L09) airports were in years past and the trip which generated the article began by flying into Las Vegas International (LAS), then driving into DVNP from there. The photo taken on final to L06’s Runway 33 (shown right) was also taken on one of those visits from years past. In the course of responding to the many messages I received, I learned the National Park Service (NPS) had issued a news release about the current condition of L06’s runway (released after the article was published). Obviously, I encourage all pilots to always check NOTAMs and other sources of information about airport conditions before using any airport or aviation facility. Doing so is not only good aviator-sense, it is required. However, sometimes getting real time and accurate information can be difficult at remote and/or low-utilization airports; such is the case within DVNP. In short, I’m sad to report that the NPS is now reporting numerous cracks and bumps have developed on L06’s runway. This runway damage has been caused by its close proximity to the water table and salt-surface heaving from below. The airport does, however, remain open and in daily use. Nonetheless, its runway condition is now stated to be “poor” and pilots are warned to take appropriate precautions. Due to an estimated cost of $3 million, repairs are unlikely to happen anytime soon. The NPS also stated that Stovepipe Wells airport (L09) is in better condition and remains a viable alternative for pilots flying into DVNP.
Again, I’d like to express my appreciation to all those who took the time to contact me with kind remarks about the article. I often learn great information from my readers, just like any good instructor endeavors to both teach and learn from their students. May your future aviation explorations be both safe and enjoyable.
ATP, CFII, MEI, Platinum CSIP & 9-Time Master CFI