Spectacular vistas, adventure await pilots

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The village of Ruidoso, located in the foothills of the Sierra Blanca Mountains in south-central New Mexico, has been an escape for my family for nearly three decades. The air is cool and clear and begs visitors to enjoy the outdoors to the fullest. If your idea of relaxation includes hiking, biking, fishing, horseback riding, skiing, zip lining, attending horse races, or visiting historic landmarks, Ruidoso checks all those boxes.

Ruidoso (shortened from Rio Ruidoso, Spanish for “noisy river”) is a tourism-driven town to be sure. Its official regional population of 20,000 can swell to 85,000 on busy weekends. Quarter horse racing is held in the summer, Ruidoso’s busiest season, as are many regular festivals, music performances, and club rallies that draw low-landers up the mountainside for weekend dining and shopping.

The Sierra Blanca Regional Airport, with an elevation of 6,800 feet msl, sits on a wide-open mesa east of the Sierra Blanca and Sacramento mountain ranges. It’s an easy approach, VFR or IFR, with no dive-and-drive, tree-dodging maneuvers required to put down on one of the two paved runways. The field is nontowered but has a staffed CTAF from 7 a.m. to7 p.m. About 45 aircraft are based at the field, which accommodates everything from singles and twins to Citation and Challenger jets. On some days, military traffic—including C–130s, Black Hawks, and Apaches—uses the airport as part of high-altitude training.

I flew into Sierra Blanca Regional Airport one summer, unaware it was the All American Futurity racing weekend and was awestruck by the collection of big iron (OK, aluminum) on the ramp. Taxiing my 1965 E-model Mooney to the ramp, I felt like I was driving the riding lawn mower that leads a neighborhood Fourth of July parade as I counted the airstairs and turbines.

Approaching the airport, I’ve encountered everything from a formation of fighters returning from an airshow in Texas to a King Air that nearly dropped on top of me as it descended to land. This was pre-ADS-B, so my proximity warning system amounted to seeing the King Air’s belly passing over my Mooney’s windscreen close enough to tell it needed a wash.

The field offers fuel, tiedowns, restrooms, hangars, rental cars, two runways, and ILS and RNAV approaches. Tiedown fees for one night are waived if sufficient fuel is purchased, and for a fee, your aircraft can be hangared for your stay. For short

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