The Phoenix metro area is home to some of the busiest airports on the planet. Besides the obvious landmark of Phoenix Sky Harbor, the metro’s multiple reliever airports absorb the bulk of the valley’s general aviation needs. The busiest by a longshot is Phoenix Deer Valley Municipal Airport (KDVT). While several of our Airport Focus articles have centered on lesser-known airports, this month we tackle a valley favorite.
Deer Valley Airport is in North Phoenix, just north of the Loop 101 Freeway. Owned by the City of Phoenix, the airport sits on 914 acres of land and has a set of parallel runways that accommodated over 415,000 operations in 2018 alone! In fact, according to the latest FAA statistics, Deer Valley was the busiest GA airport in the nation and the 16th busiest overall, ranking just behind Miami International for overall operations. Is Deer Valley big? Yes. Busy? Yes. Like most airports, it didn’t start this way.
Back in 1959, during the heyday buildup of the valley, television game show host Art Linkletter purchased the original site and built a single-runway private airport. One can only imagine the types of jet-set characters who would have been seen at DVT in those early days. Realizing the value of a reliever airport for the growing Phoenix Sky Harbor, the city of Phoenix purchased what was then a 482-acre airport in 1971 and immediately installed a control tower of sorts. A terminal was constructed in 1975. The terminal was completely renovated in 1998 and the tower was replaced with a brand-new one in 2007. The airport continues to be well-maintained and is adapting to the massive flow of traffic seen year-round. An homage to the rich history of this airport can be seen today via an impressive collection of photos and articles in a museum of sorts in the terminal’s hallway.
Today, the parallel 7/25 runways are long enough to serve large and small aircraft year-round, even in the extreme summer heat with density altitude off the charts. The airport sits at 1475’ MSL. 7R/25L is 8196’ x 100’ with overrun areas at both ends. 7L25R is 4500’ x 75’. Both are well lighted and include 2-light PAPIs and REILs. Both also have high-speed taxiway exits, and a trio of parallel taxiways handle the traffic on both the north and south sides, as well as transitioning traffic between the runways.
Back to the traffic... As mentioned previously, DVT is consistently the busiest general aviation airport in the world. This can be incredibly intimidating to low-time pilots or those who normally operate from uncontrolled fields. With an ATIS, separate north and south tower frequencies, and a ground frequency, it can seem overwhelming. Fortunately, the incredible air traffic controllers are well-accustomed to novice communicators as the airport is home to two large international flight schools. ATC consistently coordinates with the flight schools to minimize confusion and the time spent on the radio, and they are forgiving of minor mistakes. Despite the traffic, many pilots choose DVT over other local airports. DVT is a short 10nm from the Scottsdale Airport, yet with far more parking, lower fees, and lower fuel costs, it is very welcoming to general aviation aircraft.
As can be expected with the amount of traffic DVT experiences, tune into ATIS to find airport conditions and then tune to the appropriate tower frequency to monitor traffic density. When nearing one of the standard reporting points indicated on the sectional chart, call the tower and let them know your intentions. Per the Deer Valley Airport Communication Guide, the controllers prefer your initial callup include tail number, location, ATIS information, and intentions. Using a single call for all of this frees up time for other traffic. It’s really that simple. Pay attention, remain vigilant for other traffic, and fly the plane. There are small hills just to the East of the airport, so pay attention to altitude on descent and departure.
Once you’re on the ground and parked (for free!) on the ramp at the terminal, the Deer Valley Airport Café is right inside to fill you with some great food. A large menu awaits, and the friendly staff is quick to serve. In the cooler months, the outdoor patio truly offers the best seat in the house with a clear view of the runway. An observation deck upstairs, complete with ATC audio, is a great place to watch the action and grade landings. The terminal boasts a comfortable briefing room and waiting room as well.
The airport is located just a few blocks away from Loop 101 Freeway, AZ-51, and I-17, so transportation is easy via Uber, Lyft, or taxi. Onsite and nearby rental car agencies will drop a car off at the airport or will take you to their nearby office to pick up a car. Valley attractions are a short ride to and from the airport and its central location makes DVT a convenient place to meet clients or pick up passengers.
Cutter Aviation serves DVT as a full-service FBO offering fuel, maintenance, turbine and jet servicing, catering, and general logistics. Cutter’s pilot’s lounge is well-appointed and a welcome respite from the cockpit. At the time of this writing, Cutter’s full-service fuel prices are $5.89 for 100LL and $5.49 for Jet A. Self-service 100LL is available from Sibran on the north side of the field. At the time of this writing, fuel was priced at $4.53, and pilots who frequent DVT or call it home can receive a $0.20/gallon discount using a pre-paid card.
If you haven’t been into Deer Valley, or if it’s been a while, perhaps it’s time to give it a try. With nearly 1,000 aircraft based at DVT, there’s a good chance you’ll meet your fellow APA members there and they’ll be more than happy to show you around. Say hi to the staff in the café and enjoy the iced tea.