Landing an Airplane at the Edge of the Grand Canyon

Last fall we did a vacation to Sedona, Arizona. My wife Melissa, son Nico and I hopped in the family Cessna Skylane and took off from San Carlos near our home in San Francisco. On the way we stopped at a 2,900 foot dirt runway that ended at the edge of the grand canyon: Pearce Ferry (L25).

As we approached we saw solar panels, Las Vegas, and the Colorado river coming out of the canyon. The plateau with the runway was surrounded by desert. There were some houses a few miles to the south. West Grand Canyon was reporting wind that favored runway 1 so we approached from that direction. Normally we enter the traffic pattern at 45 degrees to be safe around other aircraft. Due to the desolation of this strip we decided to remain vigilant and do a straight in approach to overfly runway 1. It was extremely rocky looking at first but then was smooth dirt. No wildlife or holes. Looked good. Immediately after passing over the end of runway 1 the ground dropped out from underneath us and we were over the canyon. Amazing.

We circled to the right out over the canyon remaining in the pattern. I told Melissa I wasn’t sure about the runway and asked if we should go for it. She said, “Sure!”

Approaching runway 1 again we stayed high over the initial rocks. Touchdown was fine and we bumped along the dirt. We probably could have stopped in the first 1,000 feet but since the interesting scenery was at the end I kept us rolling. A hundred feet before the end of the runway and the canyon I pulled into a turnout. Melissa exclaimed “that was close! We almost rolled off the end.” Ha.

1 year old Nico stepped out of the plane and had some snacks while we enjoyed the scenery.

The takeoff was easy and the ground dropped away. Since we’re allowed to fly low near the “airport” I suppose that means we can legally fly below runway elevation within the canyon as long we are less than 3 miles away. As we continued east we climbed to 8,000 feet for some spectacular canyon views.

There’s a bag over the compass because it was leaking kerosene on my lap.

Sedona was great. We also saw some hot air balloons in Albuquerque, a meteor crater and plopped down in Navajo nation. On the way back we stopped at Lake Havasu.