Best Of the Web: A Visit To Van Sant


It’s tempting to decry the disappearance of the classic country airport. It’s also a myth. Sure, many have been plowed up for houses or shopping centers, but there are still plenty out there. One of the most storied is Van Sant Airport in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, about 40 miles north of Philadelphia and hard by the Pennsylvania/New Jersey state line. It was founded in 1960 by namesake John Van Sant. It’s well known in the northeast as a place for tailwheel training off a turf runway. This week’s video is an unabashedly promotional piece by Karen Mintz. If showcases the airport and a beautifully restored 1928 Travel Air. If you’ve ever had an urge to fly one, Van Sant is the place to go.


  1. Love this airport! Learned to fly there. Got my sailplane rating there as well. Got checked out in the Stearman and N3N, but for some reason, I can’t convince Barr let me fly the TravelAir.
    This should be on every pilot’s list to visit. No place like it that I know of…

  2. Disappearance isn’t a “myth”, they’re just not ALL gone yet. I am not sure I would call them “plentiful”. How few left is too few?

    Just recently two airports within my short range have closed, East Stroudsburg (N53) (hard surface), and Trinca (13N) (grass). Neither were as cute as 9N1 perhaps, but now both are gone.

  3. It’s everyone’s dream. Certainly is mine. What I wish for my home airport, yes an airport in and among midwestern wheat fields where it should be like Van Sant but isn’t, is at least a compromise. Our 7000 foot runway, taxiway and safety areas have in the past few years been totally rebuilt, with much federal money and the attendant strings of course, but not one blade of grass is designated as an official landing area. I understand the need for progress in the definition of today’s commerce and society, and I’m even willing to accept it. After all, that was the kind of progress that enabled my flying career. But all I really need in my retirement is 1000 feet of grass, availability of mogas and a verbal gentlemen’s agreement that we’ll both coexist, neither I nor airport management doing anything stupid.

  4. I went to medical school at Rutgers and Princeton. Not too far from Bucks County.

    I used to ride my motorcycle (a 1980 GS1100E for those who know) out there to hang out on the flight line. I’d look around for a while until I could get someone to take me for a ride.

    Good memories.

  5. I did my J3 Cub transition at Van Sant many years ago. Wonderful grass airport! Airports like this survive with public or private funding, fuel sales and hangar rent. Many of the grass airports that I’ve been to are public but privately-owned. That does not qualify them for public funding for things like AWOS and runway maintenance. They operate on a very thin margin and only the love of aviation keeps them going. Sometimes ignorant local governments or residents around the airport who don’t like noise but build next to the airport anyway are the force that kills them. I used to be on the board of directors for a nice grass airport just off the lake where I live that survived only on private bequests and funding but was open to the public because of the terms of the bequest. I know of another one where a land owner built a horse farm off one end of the runway and then complained that the noise of the airplanes taking off and landing frightened his prize horses. It caused the airport owners to take the airport private because they got no support from the county government. They had to alter the final approach on the west end to avoid the horse farm. It now requires a sharp dogleg just before touchdown which reduces stability and safety. Recently there has been a surge of interest in back country flying and non-paved runways because of the freedom they offer and the fact that maintenance costs are lower for grass than pavement. I hope that keeps airports like Van Sant operating for many years to come. My Maule’s 31″ Alaskan Bushwheels tundra tires prefer grass landings to pavement and they’ve lasted 7 years so far.