Agua Caliente: A Tricky Airport?

Not too far from where I live is Agua Caliente airport. Its a neat little airport since it is a strip in almost the middle of nowhere, nothing but desert for miles around, excepting a small store and campgrounds. But it packs a nasty surprise for the unwary – some rock can get in the way of your flight if you are not careful.

In SoCal we hear a lot about the dangers of Catalina, Big Bear or Sedona but I don’t know of any club airplane that has been damaged at those fields (which is not to say that they haven’t). However, this week is the third time a club (that I belong to) plane has been damaged at Agua Caliente. I don’t know the details of this incident but the previous two incidents were the same – landing long and fast. If you look at this aerial photo you can see that the go-around options run out pretty fast and in each case the pilot elected to overrun the runway rather than risk the abort. Damage is definitely less this way.

I don’t hear people talk about Agua Caliente but the airport definitely seems to have a habit of catching people unaware.

4 thoughts on “Agua Caliente: A Tricky Airport?”

  1. Paul,

    I saw 55L sitting at Agua Caliente today as the Chief Photographer and I did a drive through the desert. I don’t know exactly what happened to it, but it is chocked and chained with the left main gear wheel pant missing.

    All the best,


  2. Wow, what timing! I just stumbled onto this site and topic.

    We camp there several times a year so we were excited about having a “vacation place” to fly into. With our low horsepower plane I knew I would have to be very careful about the conditions at landing. The winds can change directions several times.

    The go around can be done but there is very little margin for error. I would recommend the following; While on final, if in doubt do not attempt, decide early and give yourself as much go-around room as possible. Stay ahead of the airplane!!

    What flying club planes are allowed to land there?? just curious.

  3. I think the flying club allows any plane to go anywhere. I know, for instance, that we are allowed to fly to Ocotillo Wells which would be a soft-field landing. The word is to do our research and fly carefully.

  4. Agua Caliente yep its tricky, i went there in twin once pretty close.. short field landing… it was one heck of the runway….

    it was tricky take off too with one aborted take off…finally managed to get out of there…

    ya not many people know of that place ..its aparently.. didnt explore the place but had read somewhere .. its famous tourist place for hot springs..

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