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 houses the ticket office and snack bar is where the hangar was. In addition to the actors, politicians and other influential members of society who were flown in for parties, Mr. Hearst used the airstrip to have every one of his newspapers delivered to him for his review and critique.
Originally there were two “L”- shaped runways, one with east-west orientation and the other with a north-south orientation. Thanks to 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 could be found 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 who visited Hearst’s ranch included Sir Charles Kingford-Smith, Howard Hughes and Amelia Earhart.
In 1946, the airstrip was moved to its current location one mile north of the Visitor Center. Today, the airstrip is still used by Hearst Corporation and family but is not open to public air traffic.
The largest aircraft known to land at the airstrip was a Boeing 727 owned by Malcolm Forbes.