Rancho Las Palmas was once home to a fly in airport and hotel – Rancho Mirage History

by Coachella Valley | May 12, 2022 8:29 am

Coachella Valley Histoy – Circa 1961 – Desert Air Hotel & Resort Palm Desert Airpark Palm Springs CA Fly In! Drive In! –

Two 3200′ green grass landing strips for flying enthusiasts. This is now the home to the Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort, the Rancho Las Palmas Country Club and the Rancho Las Palmas Shopping Center in Rancho Mirage.

During the years following World War II, there were numerous airports that were destinations unto themselves, places developed for the sole purpose of enticing wandering aviators to drop in from the sky. One such place was Palm Desert Airpark.

In 1946 Los Angeles architect Hank Gogerty purchased a few hundred acres of desert about 10 miles southeast of Palm Springs.  There he sculpted & groomed a pair of beautifully manicured grass runways shaped like a pair of emerald scissors.  The longest was 3,000′ & occasionally used for polo.

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Overnight accommodations at the airpark initially consisted of war-surplus barracks that Gogerty had trucked in from Beaumont, 40 miles to the west.

The Desert Air Resort was the main facility on the field & quite a facility it was for the time with an large pool (possibly Olympic size), three diving boards up to 30', a large ranch-style hotel with restaurant & bar[2]

The Desert Air Resort was the main facility on the field & quite a facility it was for the time with an large pool (possibly Olympic size), three diving boards up to 30′, a large ranch-style hotel with restaurant & bar

By 1951, though, he heralded the opening of his Desert Air Hotel, a true oasis complete with individual cottages, a pool, a dining room, and a fabulous watering hole that attracted pilots from near & far. During its heyday, there could be as many as a 100 visiting airplanes parked at Palm Desert on holiday weekends.

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Many belonged to Hollywood celebrities, politicians, royalty, and other notables seeking escape. The Desert Air Resort was the main facility on the field & quite a facility it was for the time with an large pool (possibly Olympic size), three diving boards up to 30′, a large ranch-style hotel with restaurant & bar. I understand the adult socializing was quite colorful at times.  The airfield itself was sod with 2 crossing runways, the longest of which was probably 3,000′.

Like so many other airports, Palm Desert Airpark fell victim to escalating real-estate prices & was gobbled up by land developers in 1968.  There were many other such fly-in destinations that no longer exist, and the sad reality is that virtually no other airports were developed to replace them.

Marriott Hotels & Resorts purchased the adjacent 27-hole Rancho Las Palmas Country Club in September, 1981.  It had initially been an 18-hole golf course called Desert Air!

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