Many of Mr. Hearst’s guests at the ranch began their visits from the same spot that today’s visitors do. The original airport/airstrip was located where the current Visitor’s Center is today. The building that today houses the ticket office and snack bar is where the hangar was located. In addition to the stars, politicians and other influential members of society that were continually being flown in for extravagant parties, Mr. Hearst used the airstrip to have everyone of his newspapers delivered to him for his review and critique.
Originally there were two runways, “L” shaped, one with east-west orientation and the other with a north-south orientation. Because of this positioning, pilots could use either of the runways during adverse winds or weather. The runways were lit by the usual blue and red runway lights that one would find at any airport throughout the state. However, it is said that at San Simeon, Mr. Hearst’s airstrip was one of the first in the state to facilitate instrument landings.
Famous aviators that visited Hearst’s ranch included: Sir Charles Kingford-Smith, Howard Hughes, Amelia Earhart, and Charles Lindbergh.
In 1946, the airstrip was moved to its current location one mile north. Today, the airstrip is still used by the Hearst Corporation and family but is not open to public air traffic.
Typically, small prop and jet aircraft are the norm. However, the largest aircraft to land at the airstrip (that we know of) was a 727 owned by Malcolm Forbes that visited over a 4th of July weekend several years ago.