SkyRanch at Carefree Airport

Fred Wright / March 24, 2023

This article provides historical context about the establishment of a private airport in the Carefree area, starting back in 1961 and describing its evolution to its current form and intended use. The airport is located just north of the State Land Trust property object of Carefree Park preservation initiative.


The Beginnings - 1960-79

Due north of the 47.815 acre State Land Trust property with Cave Creek Road on the south, Mule Train Rd on the west and Pima Rd on the east is the SkyRanch at Carefree Airport situated on 51 acres of land. The airport opened in 1961 as a private glider take-off and landing strip with a 4000 foot dirt runway. For many years there were few residences in the vicinity of the airport. The 4000 foot runway was paved in the late 1960s.

In 1969 the first fly-in home designed by Gerry Jones was completed on the north edge of the runway and a second home designed by Mr. Jones was completed in 1973. Both residences included aircraft storage hangars. There are a total of 20 custom home lots along the north edge of the runway called “Carefree Air Park” accessible from a shared taxiway running parallel to the runway. All of the homes have private hangars for aircraft storage.

Paved taxiway and aircraft ramp parking areas along with open air covered aircraft parking shades were constructed along with a fueling station by the early 1970s.

The Growth Decades

 In the mid 1980s open air covered aircraft parking shades began to be replaced with rows of enclosed aircraft hangar buildings. Today there are a total of 120 aircraft storage hangars of various sizes in 12 hangar buildings along with a small airport terminal building.

The Town of Carefree was incorporated in the mid 1980s as residential growth in the Carefree area accelerated.  About the same time the airport developer created a townhome community called “SkyRanch at Carefree” comprised of 60 townhomes completed by the mid 1990s.   Many of the townhome residents own aircraft at the SkyRanch airport.


Intended Use

Shortly after the Town of Carefree was incorporated, a special use agreement was negotiated with the airport owners that created the operational and business rules for the airport. To provide a safe aircraft landing and takeoff corridor, the Town of Carefree created a 20 foot height limit 500 feet either side of the runway  extending 1000 feet from the west end of the runway.   The height restricted corridor covers the northwest corner of the State Land Trust Property limiting future construction options. There is a 25 foot height limit on residential property west of Mule Train Rd.  The proposal for a park on the State Land Trust Property would ensure the safe landing-takeoff corridor for the airport.  


The image with overlay shows the typical  height above the touchdown point for a plane on final approach to land.



Present and Future

The 51 acre SkyRanch at Carefree Airport exists today as a private airport jointly owned by the 120 hangar owners.   It is organized as a non-profit corporation with strict rules in place regarding property use, safety, aircraft traffic patterns and noise abatement procedures.   There are a wide range of aircraft stored and operated by its owners ranging from vintage Piper Cubs and Cessna single engine planes to small personal jets and turbo-prop aircraft.  Aircraft size is limited to 12,500 pounds gross weight.   Only individual owners of the planes are allowed to take off and land at the airport, although the special use agreement with the Town of Carefree does permit guests of the local resorts to land at the airport with advance permission.  No commercial business or flight training operations are allowed and helicopters are not permitted. 


The SkyRanch at Carefree airport has strived over its 60+ year existence to be a good neighbor to the homeowners in the Town of Carefree and will continue to do so in the future.   Most people driving by the airport do not recognize it as an airport, which is by design as it blends in with the beautiful desert landscape along Cave Creek Rd.  


Fred Wright

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