Airports Right In Town Eliminate Dreaded ‘Last Mile’ to Your Destination

Ypu may run into a celebrity after you fly into Goodspeed Airport, as the author did once. [Courtesy: Goodspeed Airport]

When traveling by light aircraft using general aviation airports, we often encounter snags when trying to get into town from the airport. In the old days there was probably a crew car available for the drive, and today there are taxis and rideshare services. But as any frequent traveler knows, these options are not always readily available, especially in rural areas.

Sometimes the best way to avoid the hassles of covering the so-called “last mile” to your destination is to find attractions that you can walk to from the airport. This can be a fun challenge and is also a nice time saver on those days when you have to return the rental airplane in time for a student to take a check ride.

Various airport guides tell you how far an airport is from town. For example, Columbia County Airport (1B1) in Hudson, New York, is 4 miles from the city center—farther than most folks want to walk. But Goodspeed Airport (42B) in East Haddam, Connecticut, is listed as a mile from town. In fact, it is more like a stone’s throw. Walk a couple of minutes from the airport office and you are there.

Below are a few airports that are practically in town instead of on the outskirts, and some of the highlights that make them worth a visit.

Goodspeed Airport (42B)

East Haddam, Connecticut

Look for the beautiful swing bridge when approaching this classic colonial village on the Connecticut River. You will fly right over it if landing to the southeast on Runway 14. If the winds favor 32, you will have to clear the bridge on your way out. Don’t worry, it is farther from the end of the runway than it appears. There are cafes, restaurants and shops to explore but the main attraction for many is the Goodspeed Opera House, a renowned performing arts center. Four years ago, we flew to town for breakfast and ran into the actor Peter Dinklage of Game of Thrones fame, who was starring in a local production of Cyrano.

Mackinac Island [File photo: Shutterstock]

Mackinac Island Airport (KMCD)

Mackinac Island, Michigan

Building an airport with a 3,500-foot runway on a patch of land that covers just over 4 square miles just about guarantees that local attractions will be walkable for pilots. There are also plenty of bicycles and horse-drawn carriages available if you wish to get around a bit faster. But the island banned cars in 1901 and hasn’t looked back. So other than a police car, an ambulance, and a couple of fire trucks, it is hard to spot a motor vehicle on Mackinac. The ban extends to e-bikes and drones, by the way.

Katama Airpark has a rich history dating back nearly 100 years. [Courtesy: Katama Airfield]

Katama Airfield (1B2)

Edgartown, Massachusetts

Martha’s Vineyard is a wonderful destination for pilots, in part because flying there is much faster and easier than taking the usual combination of car and ferry. There is also a seemingly endless list of enjoyable things to do there, from dining, shopping, hiking and biking to relaxing on the beach. While the towered Vineyard Haven Airport (KMVY) is newer, bigger, and busier, many traditionalists prefer Katama, which opened in 1924 and has a rich history as a former base of operations for Curtiss-Wright Corp. The on-airport Katama Kitchen restaurant serves diner fare.

[Courtesy: National Park Service]

First Flight Airport (KFFA)

Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina

It is a short walk to town, the Atlantic Ocean to the east, or Albemarle Sound to the west, because the airport is located on a narrow stretch of land in the heart of North Carolina’s Outer Banks region. The National Park Service owns the field, which is near numerous historic Civil War sites that played pivotal roles in the strategic control of North Carolina during that conflict. Still, much of the area’s interest focuses on a couple of brothers from Ohio. Wilbur and Orville Wright made many gliding and powered flights from the site, including their famous first in the 1903 Wright Flyer.

[Courtesy: Skagway Airport]

Skagway Airport (PAGY)

Skagway, Alaska

Like many things in Alaska, flying into Skagway is more challenging than typical airport operations in the lower 48. It helps to plan ahead and speak with pilots who have experience there in order to find the best way in and out. Skagway, situated on the popular Inside Passage route that cruise lines favor, tends to be a windy place, and dealing with gusts around the airport requires practice. Once you are there, though, there is a lot to see, including Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. The city includes many buildings from the gold-rush era that are preserved as part of the  National Historical Park. The White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad operates vintage locomotives on the White Pass Summit Excursion that offers passengers impressive views. Other scenic railroad routes are set to resume next year.

Jonathan Welsh is a private pilot who worked as a reporter, editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal for 21 years, mostly covering the auto industry. His passion for aviation began in childhood with balsa-wood gliders his aunt would buy for him at the corner store. Follow Jonathan on Twitter @JonathanWelsh4

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