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Reclaimed California Airport Offers Old West Experience

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Five years ago, RAF California Liaison Rick Lach initiated conversation with the BLM about reopening Johannesburg Airport in California, a two-runway dirt airport which appeared on charts until the 1970s. The airstrip served the nearby communities of Randsburg and Johannesburg, which are both functioning gold and quartz mining settlements that date back to the 1800s. Gold miners who’d previously worked in South Africa named the outpost. 

Thanks to the cooperation of the BLM, on September 15, the RAF organized a group of volunteers to re-open Johannesburg Airport, after twenty years of abandonment by all but OHV enthusiasts. 

Visitors to the airstrip can access a gas station via a short walk, or enjoy restaurants, bars and lodging by walking about two miles over the hill into picturesque Randsburg with its surviving original facades and buildings. September’s Western Days Celebration brings live music and vendors, and crowds can pan for gold and witness gun fights. There are also many abandoned and functioning mines in the immediate area.

The renovated runway is roughly 3,500 ft AGL. The primary take-off and no-wind runway is roughly 2,200 ft long with a smooth surface. It parallels the highway and power line to the immediate south. The crosswind runway is roughly 1,500 ft long and has an upslope when landing to the south. Prevailing winds usually dictate landing on the crosswind runway, however the upslope and power line on the south end make this a poor choice for take-off. Take-offs are suggested westbound on the longer runway parallel to the road. 

For a full safety briefing, click here.