A flight to Key West Airport definitely ranks among the highlights for pilots in Florida. Caribbean ambience, gorgeous flight over the Keys and a place that even cast its spell on the likes of Ernest Hemingway. This and much more make Key West Airport an interesting destination. Coming from the North, you generally fly along the coastline. However, one controlled air space follows another in quick succession. Air space transitions are usually granted as long as you stay low enough to avoid interfering with take-off and landing traffic. That’s why you are often directed to fly at altitudes between 500 and 1000 ft. If you fly low over the shoreline, there is an outstanding view over the ocean, and you might even see devil rays, whales, and dolphins. You fly along the Fort Lauderdale and Miami skylines, sometimes lower than the top stories of the skyscrapers and directly over the beach. South of Miami Beach are Fisher Island, Virginia Key and Key Biscaine, the first of the small offshore islands. The northern ridge of the actual Keys begins at about the level of Homestead, which is where Elliott Key and Key Largo are located.
Marathon, between Homestead and Key West, is the last public airport before arriving at Key West Airport.
After Marathon, you should pay special attention to a restricted area (R-2916), which protects a balloon that is tied to a steel cable and floats at a height of roughly 14,000 ft. If you have good eyes, you’ll see the balloon, but you can’t see the steel cable unless you’re really looking for it. That’s why disregarding the restricted area has not only legal consequences, but can also ruin your entire day. Shortly before Key West, you first fly over a Naval Air Station that looks incredibly inviting due to its crossed runways, but unfortunately, it is taboo for civil aircraft. After flying through the Navy air space, you are handed over to Key West Tower for landing.
Once on the ground in Key West Airport, a relatively inconspicuous FBO awaits you with services that leave nothing to be desired. You can rent a car here either from enterprise or AVIS. For a quick trip to town, it’s better to take a taxi (about $15 for two people) and enjoy the 10-minute drive to Duval Street, the epicenter of Key West. At the south end of Duval Street, there is a somewhat bulky buoy that marks the “Southernmost Point of Continental U.S.A.“ The harbor is located at the north end of the street. There are several inviting cafés and restaurants with a relaxed atmosphere and a great view of the nearby islands, at least as long as a cruise ship is not moored at the pier, which blocks the view.
The city of Key West has many museums, including Hemingway Museum, the Shipwreck Museum, the Audubon House and Garden as well as the Little White House, where President Harry S. Truman vacationed. You should check out this gem for aviators: the first office of Pan American World Airways at 301 Whitehead St. What began here in Key West with a promising name, later to become known as Pan Am , became one of the world’s leading airlines. Its first flight took off from Key West to Havana in 1927. Located today in the former Pan Am building is Kelly’s Caribbean Bar, Grill & Brewery with a beautifully shaded courtyard and a diverse menu.