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SW Aviator Feb/Mar 2001
SW Aviator Magazine is available in print free at FBOs and aviation-related businesses throughout the Southwest or by subscription.
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2001 Aviation Events Calendar
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Used Aircraft For Sale
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Story and photos by Mark Swint
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The desert Southwest is a fun place to fly. The region offers beautiful landscapes, and some of the most consistent flying weather in the US. Almost any day of the year, the adventurous pilot can count on being able to slip away from the cares of everyday life and lazily soar over the spectacular scenery the desert has to offer. A pilot with a good plane under him or her can drift over the countryside soaking in all that beauty for hours, but at some point a body still has to eat, and a plane still needs to refuel. To that end, it is always nice to find a quiet little spot without outrageous landing fees and fuel prices. Sometimes, coming upon a little out-of-the-way place is part of the adventure, and a really good hamburger or blue plate special just adds to the satisfaction.

Such a find is located in the southernmost tip of Nevada, along Highway 95 as it heads south out of Boulder City, paralleling the Colorado River towards Laughlin. Just before the Laughlin turnoff there is a small settlement. The sign along the highway announces that you have come upon the Cal-Nev-Ari Casino and Restaurant. The name comes from the combination of the first three letters of California, Nevada, and Arizona, which are all in close proximity here at the pointy end of Nevada.

Cal-Nev-Ari is a residential airpark, with over 400 home sites. The community is built around a well-maintained lighted dirt runway, and sports an eclectic array of homes and hangers. The self-contained community also features a motel, convenience market, an RV park, a post office (with its own zip code, 89039), and the aforementioned restaurant and casino.

On a recent weekend, a friend and I fired up his trusty C-182 for some sightseeing, and dropped in to Cal-Nev-Ari for lunch and a look around town.

The restaurant and casino building is right off the runway, and has a nice little parking area where planes can pull up directly behind the restaurant and park. Inside we met Nancy Kidwell, the founder, owner, and proprietor of Cal-Nev-Ari. She was gracious and friendly, and gave us a brief history of the place, after which her husband, Ace Kidwell, took us on a tour of the town. Nancy and Ace, and Ace’s father Slim Kidwell, came from California in the mid 1960s, fresh from running the FBO at the Torrance Airport. Slim and Nancy took advantage of the Pittman Land Act, a federal program for arid lands, to take possession of the section of land upon which the town now sits. The land had an old military airstrip left over from World War II. Stage Field, as it was known then, was a site where General Patton’s troops trained for desert warfare. The field had long since been abandoned, but the Kidwells were able to restore one airstrip.

Part of the deal for getting the land was developing water resources, and the Kidwell clan quickly set out drilling wells. They had to go deep – but they found sweet pure water, and plenty of it. Their first well was drilled to a depth of 750 feet, with a second one drilled down 650 feet. Nancy told me they have plans to ultimately have four wells. The Kidwells planted crops early on, but eventually developed the land as a retirement haven for pilots. Quickly, an assortment of trailers, manufactured houses, and regular homes sprung up around the airstrip. Nancy just opened up another parcel of land for 61 lots, and has sold quite a few of them already. Another parcel is set for development soon.
The Casino has video poker and slot machines, a bar, a very nice dining room that is only open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm, and a café that is open all day every day. During the week, the dinner menu is available in the café.

We found the food at the café to be excellent, and the service very friendly. They had a varied menu with something on it for most tastes. We both couldn’t resist the homemade meatloaf dinner. It was very good, and the prices were great. For instance, the Flyer’s Breakfast (ham, sausage, or bacon; two eggs any style; hash brown or home fries, and toast and jelly) is only $4.25, the lunch special (a prime rib sandwich on the day of our visit) is $5.50, and the burgers start at only $3.45. Our generous portion of meatloaf was $4.50. An assortment of fresh baked pies was the perfect finish for lunch. The cafe was very clean and bright. The servers were attentive, and it was just a lovely place for a nice simple lunch.

The dinner menu features steaks and seafood at excellent prices. The most expensive meal on the menu is the USDA Choice filet mignon at $18.75, and a nice T-bone steak is offered at $13.75. New York steaks, sirloin, pork chops, and liver are also on the menu, as are some chicken dishes and an assortment of seafood offerings.

Cal-Nev-Ari is easy to find – just head south out of Boulder City for about 45 miles and look for the only visible civilization. The airstrip’s official name is Kidwell Airport (1L4), and is on the Phoenix Sectional at N35.18.33 W114.52.97. The lighted airstrip is 4150 feet long, and it runs north and south along the west side of the highway. The dirt-surface runway 15/33 is graded regularly and is very acceptable. There is a paved run-up area on the south end, and 100LL is available on the field. There is a fair amount of traffic around the uncontrolled field, especially on weekends, so keep a sharp eye out for other planes. Local traffic uses 122.9 as a CTAF, and Reno FSS can be reached on 122.5. If you choose to spend the night, there is camping available on the field, and rooms available in the adjacent Blue Sky Motel.

If your flying anywhere around the Las Vegas area and have a hankering for a quick burger or a nice inexpensive dinner, why not stop in a Cal-Nev-Ari. Be sure to say hi to Nancy and Ace and, while your there, take a few minutes to read the history of the place. They have it mounted on the wall of the café. If the dining room is open, check out the vast collection of aviation memorabilia all around the walls. They have pictures of airplanes even I don’t recognize, and I thought I knew just about all of them.

The Cal-Nev-Ari Casino is open 24 hours. The café is open daily from 6:00 am to 9:30 pm, and provides a great meal at a great price for the passing traveler. Call 702-297-1118 or visit for more information.

neva,Swiss,SunSans-Regular" face="Arial, Verdana, Helvetica">Mark Swint is a senior captain for United airlines, flying 767 and 757 aircraft based in LAX. For fun, he flies his Cessna C-185 and Beech Baron B-55. Mark is also a licensed A&P. Mark has been a writer for many years, including a two-year stint in Hollywood and London working in the screenwriting business.
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